Pakistani troops capture senior Taliban official

The Baltimore Sun

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistani authorities said yesterday that they had captured a senior Taliban commander, critically wounding him in a shootout after he crossed into Pakistan from southern Afghanistan.

Mansoor Dadullah, whose more prominent brother Mullah Dadullah was killed by U.S. forces last year in Afghanistan, was captured after he and a small band of fighters encountered a contingent of Pakistani troops in the southwest province of Baluchistan, the Pakistani army said.

Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said Dadullah was captured alive but was badly wounded in a firefight. Several soldiers were hurt as well, the army spokesman said.

Dadullah's capture comes amid heavy pressure on Pakistan by U.S. officials to go after senior figures in the Taliban and al-Qaida. On Saturday, the visiting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Adm. Mike Mullen, said the threat posed by militants in Pakistan's tribal belt was growing.

The government of President Pervez Musharraf acknowledges that some militants are operating in the tribal areas abutting the Afghan border but bristles at assertions by the United States that figures such as Osama bin Laden are hiding in Pakistan.

It was not entirely clear whether Dadullah still held an important position within the Taliban. Reports had circulated in December that he was dismissed from a command role.

Dadullah's capture could signal greater vigilance along the Afghan border by Pakistani forces. Until recently, the Pakistani side had insisted that the blame for poor policing of the frontier lay with the Afghans.

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