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US-Pakistan Operation Captures Top Taliban Military Commander


U.S. and Pakistani officials say a secret joint operation involving intelligence agents from both countries captured Afghanistan's top Taliban military commander several days ago in Karachi.

Officials describe the Afghan commander, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, as second in influence only to the Taliban's founder, Mullah Muhammad Omar. They say he is the most important Taliban figure detained since the war in Afghanistan started in late 2001.

Pakistan's interior minister neither confirmed nor denied Baradar's detention when asked by reporters Tuesday. The Taliban in Afghanistan deny he has been captured, calling the report a rumor and a diversion.

Pakistani and American intelligence agents say they are interrogating Baradar, who was in charge of the Taliban's day-to-day military operations and its governing political council.

Officials say his capture suggests a new level of cooperation between Pakistani and American intelligence agencies.

In the past, U.S. officials have accused Pakistan's intelligence agencies of maintaining ties with the Afghan Taliban leadership and being reluctant to pursue them in sanctuaries in Pakistan. Pakistani officials have denied the claim.

The New York Times first reported Baradar's capture late Monday.

The Times says it learned of the operation last week, but delayed reporting it at the request of White House officials, who argued that making it public would compromise the effort to gather intelligence.

Hours before the report came out, Pakistani officials said a suspected U.S. drone strike had killed at least three militants in a northwestern tribal region. A similar attack in the same area killed seven militants a day earlier.

Pakistani authorities said a missile fired from an unmanned aircraft Monday struck a vehicle traveling through Tapi village in North Waziristan. The semi-autonomous tribal region is used as a sanctuary by the Taliban and al-Qaida as well as militants from the Haqqani group, which has been blamed for cross-border attacks against international and Afghan troops.

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