American troops have captured senior Pakistani Taliban commander Latif Mehsud, but several conflicting accounts mean the exact details remain unclear.
His detention by the US Army is a blow to the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Pakistani Taliban, that has been waging a decade-long insurgency against the country’s capital Islamabad, and is responsible for a failed bomb attack on New York’s Time Square in 2010.
Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson for the US State Department, confirmed in Washington that the senior commander in the TTP was captured by US forces in a military operation, but does not have details of how, when or where.
“Latif Mehsud is as a trusted confident of the group's leader, Hakimullah Mehsud," Harf said of the men who are not related. "TTP claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of Times Square in 2010 and has vowed to attack the US homeland again. TPP is also responsible for attacking our diplomats in Pakistan and attacks that have killed countless Pakistani civilians."
The news comes after Secretary of State John Kerry was in Kabul to negotiate the terms of a security agreement between the US and Afghanistan. The deal would govern the activities of American forces in Afghanistan after the Nato-led combat mission ends at the close of 2014.
Arsallah Jamal, governor of Logar province in eastern Afghanistan, said Mehsud was captured as he was driving along a main highway in Mohammad Agha district, 35km from Kabul. Mr Jamal said Mehsud was in a car with two or three other men when the US military arrested him.
The TTP confirmed the capture, but claimed Mehsud was seized by the Afghan army at the Ghulam Khan border crossing in the eastern province of Khost on return from a meeting to discuss an exchange of Afghan prisoners for money.
However, Pakistani intelligence officials said American forces seized Meshud while he was with the Afghan army, and that they no longer know where he is.
Afghan president Hamid Karzai sees the commander’s caputure as a violation of Afghan sovereignty, but a US defence official said the move is lawful.
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