Pakistan captures Afghan Taliban’s shadow governor of Baghlan province

Pakistani intelligence officials have detained yet another senior Afghan Taliban leader, while security forces rounded up three al Qaeda operatives and a local Pakistani Taliban commander in Karachi.

Mullah Mir Mohammad, the Taliban’s shadow governor of the northern Afghan province of Baghlan, was detained along with Mullah Abdul Salam, the shadow governor of Kunduz, who was reported captured yesterday.

Mohammad and Salam were reportedly captured in Pakistan’s Baluchistan province, according to Engineer Mohammad Omar, the legitimate governor of Kunduz.

“My information about their capture, which occurred nearly a week ago, is based on national intelligence sources,” Omar told Reuters.

Omar’s claim that Salam was arrested in Baluchistan contradicts yesterday’s report at Newsweek, which claimed Salam was captured along with three associates in the city of Faisalabad in eastern Punjab province. Another report, by the chief of police in Kunduz, stated that the two shadow governors were detained last week in the city of Peshawar, the capital of the Northwest Frontier Province.

As shadow governors, Mohammad and Salam were in charge of raising and supporting Taliban forces, imposing sharia or Islamic law, collecting taxes, and running courts. Mohammad and Salam have succeeded in reestablishing the Taliban in Kunduz and Baghlan over the past two years. Taliban forces in Baghlan and Kunduz have harassed Afghan and NATO forces in the north and attacked NATO supply lines from Tajikistan. Several districts in Baghlan and Kunduz are now either under Taliban control or contested.

Both Mohammad and Salam reported directly to Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the Afghan Taliban’s operational commander and the top deputy to Mullah Omar, who was captured more than 10 days ago in Karachi. Baradar directed the Taliban’s Shura Majlis, or executive council, which is often referred to as the Quetta Shura as it is based in the Pakistani city of the same name. In this capacity, Baradar was in charge of appointing the shadow governors and military commanders.

The announcement of the arrests took place just before US special envoy for Pakistan and Afghanistan Richard Holbrooke began his visit to Pakistan, and as Afghan and Coalition forces are on the offensive against the Taliban in the city of Marja in Helmand province. US and Western countries have pressed Pakistan for supporting the Taliban, and have presented evidence that members of the Inter-Services Intelligence agency have directly aided the Quetta Shura.

Additional arrests in Karachi

Pakistan has also detained 10 al Qaeda operatives and Afghan and Pakistani Taliban commanders over the past day. Nine of them were arrested in Karachi.

Pakistan identified three of the captured al Qaeda leaders as Abu Reyan Al Zarkazi, who is also known as Abu Musa; Ameer Muawiya; and Kifayatullah, Dawn and The Associated Press reported.

Abu Musa was described as “a known associate of Osama Bin Laden and was notorious for firing down US drones in Waziristan.” He also led foreign al Qaeda fighters, including Chechens and Tajiks, in the tribal areas. Ameer Muawiya also commanded foreign al Qaeda fighters in the tribal areas and is said to be close to Osama bin Laden. Kifayatullah is said to be a close aide to Abu Musa.

Two captured Afghan Taliban commanders were identified as Akhunzada Popalzai, the former shadow governor of Zabul province who is also known as Mohammed Younis, and Hamza, a military commander in Helmand province during Taliban rule from 1996 to 2001.

Pakistani police in Karachi also arrested Abu Waqas, a Taliban leader from the Bajaur tribal agency. Abu Waqas was in Karachi to “train 270 teenage girls aged between 13 and 16 for suicide attacks,” Daily Times reported. Waqas told police he had masterminded attacks against security forces and girls’ schools in Bajaur. Since March 2009, the military has repeatedly claimed that it secured much of Bajaur from the Taliban.

In the district of Nowshera in the Northwest Frontier Province, police captured a wanted Swat Taliban commander. Abdul Rashid, who commanded Taliban forces in the Matta region in Swat, and had a $123,000 bounty out for information leading to his arrest.

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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  • Cerebus says:

    It’s Open Season! US & Afghani Special forces and the ISI are most definitely ramping up the big game hunt for upper level Taliban/AQ heads. Add on the threat of silent death from above thanks to Reaper and Predator wolf packs constantly hovering above these vermin, donkey lovers they must be hunkered down shivering in their boots wondering when their individual card will be pulled. How do you like fear and terror now we ask?

  • Tyler says:

    Three makes a trend, as the old axiom goes.
    The Yahoo link Bill has posted gives some more specifics on today’s Karachi arrests, sounds like they were quite a bit more than the usual ‘Al Qaeda-linked’ rabble we hear about.

    _Ameer Muawiya, an associate of al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden who was in charge of foreign al-Qaida militants operating in Pakistan’s tribal regions near Afghanistan.
    _Akhunzada Popalzai, also known as Mohammad Younis, a one-time Taliban shadow governor in Zabul province and former police chief in Kabul when the repressive regime ruled Afghanistan, according to Mullah Mamamood, a tribal leader in Ghazni province.
    _Hamza, who served as a former Afghan army commander in Helmand province, during the Taliban rule.
    _Abu Riyan al Zarqawi, also known as Abu Musa, and his local facilitator, Mufti Kifayatullah. According to another Pakistani intelligence official, Zarqawi was involved in dealing with Chechen and Tajik militants operating in Pakistan’s northwestern tribal belt on the border with Afghanistan.”

  • TimSln says:

    NY Times has a report with information on more captures and enemy movements:
    The shadow governor of Marja was captured as he tried to flee the country.
    American forces have captured or killed 3 or 4 provincial governors over the last several weeks, including the shadow governor of Laghman province. (Ebadullah Rahman Niazi)
    Mullah Zakhir, the Taliban’s military commander of southern Afghanistan has been ordered back to Pakistan.

  • BullsEye says:

    Dear Mr. Roggio
    Is there some sort of explanation for all this sudden capturing? Is it really just Pakistani ISI’s change of heart, or is it possible that this is all the work of US Intel?
    It’s truly amazing to see these developments so quickly.
    For the first time in years I have a strong hope that Bin Laden and Mullah Mohammed Omar will be caught soon…

  • kp says:

    There are comments in one of the new paper reports of SIGINT being important and info coming from the CIA (ie. meaning US Intel in general). Whether this is real or disinfo we can’t know but capturing people (who may or may not talk) and the hardware they’re carrying like cellphones with phone numbers and address books, laptops and bits of paper (which almost always talks) can reveal lots of useful intel that other folks (like the NSA) can use. If you get a new phone number then I’m sure giving it to the NSA will result in the social network of that phones users being exposed (form recent phone data) then apply that to each of those contacts contacts. Then use location data for each of those calls you’ve seen (especially if that data needs to be provided by the local cellphone companies). Pretty soon you have more actionable data to target a new group.

    As for MO and UBL. I think they’re off the grid by a long way. Avoiding any cellphone or other comms hardware (and their next circle out does that too then the next one). They already saw what happened to KSM when NSA SIGINT using the serial numbers of a batch of Swiss SIM cards they bought in bulk to tracked the phones users even though they we’re regularly changing phone numbers– they didn’t fully understand how GSM SIM cards worked in that system.

  • yash says:

    How come all these people are being arrested in Pakistan and not in Afghanistan. It only vindicates the claim that Pak was playing host to these folks all the time

  • Zeissa says:

    The Pakis are probably just cooperating more because they figured they were funding the losing horse they bred up.

  • Zeissa says:

    Actually the greatest change is that the Pakistanis are willing to go get them when we have actionalbe intelligence.

  • Marlin says:

    These are hard times for the Taliban’s ‘shadow’ governors. It would be nice to know for certain if it really is Mullah Bahadar’s arrest that’s leading to all these subsequent arrests.

    Mulvi Kabir, the former Taliban governor in Afghanistan’s Nangahar Province, and a key figure in the Taliban regime was recently captured in Pakistan, two senior US officials tell Fox News. Kabir, considered to be among the top ten most wanted Taliban leaders, was apprehended in the Naw Shera district of Pakistan’s Northwest Frontier Province by Pakistani police forces.
    A senior U.S. military official in Afghanistan called Kabir a “significant detention”


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