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.
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.