Pakistani Taliban spokesman Maulvi Omar.
Pakistani security forces reportedly detained the chief spokesman for Baitullah Mehsud and his Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan. A senior aide to Baitullah was also captured in Islamabad on Monday.
Maulvi Omar and two aides were captured in the tribal agency of Mohmand as he was traveling through the region. Omar was captured with the help of tribal leaders, Pakistani intelligence officials told Dawn.
Omar has been the face of the Pakistani Taliban for the past several years. He has been in constant contact with the media and has credited the Taliban with conducting some of the largest attacks inside Pakistan.
Most recently, Omar claimed that Baitullah Mehsud is still alive after Pakistani and US officials claimed Baitullah was killed in the Aug. 5 airstrike that killed his wife. But after being detained, Omar reportedly said Baitullah was killed in the airstrike and that there is conflict in choosing Baitullah’s successor, according to Pakistani security officials.
Omar’s capture may have been facilitated by the controversy surrounding Baitullah’s reported death. Taliban spokesmen and leaders have been contacting the media to state that Baitullah is alive. The increased contact may have provided clues regarding Omar’s whereabouts to Pakistani and US intelligence services seeking to dismantle the Taliban in the insurgency-ridden northwest.
The military previously had claimed that Omar was killed during fighting against the Taliban in the Bajaur tribal agency in October 2008. Omar later surfaced and resumed his job as the chief Taliban spokesman.
Top Baitullah commander detained in Islamabad
Omar’s capture was preceded by the detention of an important Taliban leader as he sought medical treatment in Islamabad.
Pakistani security forces detained Qari Saifullah, who is said to have been seriously wounded during a recent US Predator strike in South Waziristan.
Saifullah served as a liaison between the Movement of the Taliban in Pakistan and al Qaeda, as well as a recruiter of suicide bombers, a financier, and a weapons and explosives procurer,
Saifullah also served as a commander of Taliban forces in southern Punjab province. He is thought to have been behind the deadly attacks in Dera Ghazi Khan earlier this year.
According to Geo News, Saifullah and an aide were members of the Qari Hamza Group, which is a branch of the Harakat-ul-Mujahideen, a Punjabi-Kashmiri terror group backed by Pakistan’s military and Inter-Service Intelligence agency. Harakat-ul-Mujahideen was created to fight against the Indians in Kashmir, but its fighters have increasingly been drawn to northwestern Pakistan to join forces with the Taliban and al Qaeda.
Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD’s Long War Journal.