In this Oct. 4, 2009 photo, Pakistani Taliban commander Latif Mehsud sits with fellows in Sararogha in south Waziristan in Pakistan. — Photo by AP
KABUL: Afghan officials said Friday that the US military was holding a senior Pakistani Taliban commander captured in Afghanistan a week ago.
Latif Mehsud was arrested by American forces as he was driving along a main highway, Arsallah Jamal, the governor of eastern Logar province, said on Friday.
Mehsud, a former bodyguard and close confidante of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud, was reported to have been elevated to the position of deputy ameer in the proscribed militant group.
A report published last month said he was also appointed as the commander of the TTP in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan tribal region.
According to the Associated Press, the Pakistani Taliban confirmed Latif Mehsud had been captured by the Afghan army at the Ghulam Khan border crossing in the eastern province of Khost on Oct 5.
Pakistani Taliban commanders and intelligence officials told the foreign news agency that he was captured by the Afghan army as he attended a meeting to discuss swapping Afghan prisoners for money.
TTP commander ‘snatched’ by US forces
According to a report published by the Washington Post on Friday, Afghan officials blamed the US military of ‘snatching’ the senior TTP commander from the custody of Afghan intelligence operatives who had spent months trying to recruit him as an interlocutor for peace talks.
The report said Afghan officials had spent months to establish contact with Mehsud in a bid to facilitate peace talks.
The Taliban leader had finally agreed to meet with Afghan intelligence operatives, said Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who declined to identify Mehsud by name, referring to him only as a top Taliban commander.
“The Americans forcibly removed him and took him to Bagram,” the report quoted Faizi as saying.
The ‘capture’ comes as an end of October deadline looms for completing a security deal that would allow American troops to remain in Afghanistan after the end of the Nato-led military mission next year.
On Friday, US Secretary of State John Kerry also arrived in Afghanistan in an apparent effort to try to advance the troubled negotiations with the Afghan side.
US State Department’s confirmation
Meanwhile, AFP reported that US State Department has confirmed they have captured Latif Mehsud without giving any further details.
“I can confirm that US forces did capture... terrorist leader Latif Mehsud in a military operation,” State Department deputy spokeswoman Marie Harf said, describing the captive as a senior commander in the Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
She gave no details of the operation and did not say where and when it took place.
“Mehsud is a senior commander in TTP and served as a trusted confidante of the group's leader Hakimullah Mehsud,” Harf said.
She told reporters that the TTP had claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of Times Square, New York, in 2010.
The group “had also vowed to attack the US homeland again,” Harf said, adding it had also been behind attacks on US diplomats in Pakistan as well as incidents that killed Pakistani civilians.