Aide to Mullah Omar captured in Afghan south: Report

An Afghan official has claimed that a top Taliban official with close ties to Mullah Omar was detained during a raid in Ghazni province.

Mullah Abdul Hai Motma’in, a former Taliban spokesman in Kandahar province as well as the head of the Culture and Information Ministry during Taliban rule, is said to have been detained by Afghan and Coalition forces, according to reports in two Afghan news outlets today.

Sher Khan, the district governor of Andar in Ghazni, told Bakhtar News that Motma’in was likely detained along with two Taliban commanders known as Bismillah and Qadeem. Benawa, a prominent Pashto website, also reported that Motma’in was captured.

But, during an interview with Benawa, a Taliban commander who identified himself as Mullah Fateh denied that Motma’in was in custody. Fateh said that Motma’in was not in Ghazni province at the time of the raid.

US military and intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal would not comment on the status of Motma’in. ISAF stated today that two Taliban operatives were detained during a raid in Gelan district, but did not identify Motma’in.

The Andar district in Ghazni is a known Taliban and al Qaeda hub in the southeast. The US military has conducted seven raids against al Qaeda cells in Andar since October 2008, according to ISAF press reports compiled by The Long War Journal. Senior Taliban and al Qaeda foreign fighter facilitators are known to operate in the district.

Motma’in may be a member of the Taliban’s Quetta Shura, its executive decision-making council, due to his close ties to Mullah Omar. The Quetta Shura is based in the Pakistani city of the same name, but many of its leaders, including Mullah Omar, are said to have relocated to the Pakistani city of Karachi, under the eye of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence directorate.

Over the past seven months, Pakistan has detained several senior members of the Quetta Shura, including Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the shura’s director; and Maulvi Abdul Kabir, the former leader of Peshawar Regional Military Council, one of four major commands. But Pakistan’s motives in detaining the Afghan Taliban commanders remain unclear, as other leaders are known to operate in the open.

The Taliban have quickly filled the vacant leadership positions. Baradar was replaced by two commanders, Mullah Abdul Qayum Zakir and Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Mansour. Zakir, the Taliban’s former surge commander in the south as well as a former detainee at the Guantanamo Bay detention facility, is now the top military leader. Mansour, the former Minister of Civil Aviation and Transportation and shadow governor of Kandahar, now handles the Taliban’s administrative and financial affairs.

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