Pakistan Nabs Five Taliban Leaders

Soldiers of Pakistan para-military force watch road leading to neighboring Afghanistan to nab fleeing Taliban and al-Qaida terrorists near Wana in Pakistan's tribal area of South Waziristan on Sunday, March 7, 2004. Pakistan on Monday denied capturing a son of al-Qaida No. 2 Ayman al-Zawahri during a raid last month in the border region neighboring Afghanistan.
Pakistani intelligence agents arrested five senior Taliban leaders Monday, including a deputy to fugitive Taliban chief Mullah Mohammed Omar, two security officials said.

The arrests were made after security agents raided several homes in northwestern Pakistan, said the most senior of the two intelligence officials, who was involved in interrogating the suspects. Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to speak to reporters.

The officials identified two of the captured men as Maulvi Abdul Qadeer, a deputy to Omar and formerly chairman of the Taliban Special Council, and Abdul Kabir, a former governor in Afghanistan's Nangarhar province.

They would not disclose the names of the remaining three leaders, but one official said "they are also important Taliban leaders who are in our custody and being interrogated in

No government officials were available to confirm the arrests.

Pakistan, a key ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, has arrested more than 700 Taliban and al Qaeda members, including high level operatives, since the hard-line Taliban was ousted from power in Afghanistan in 2001 for sheltering Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden and Omar have so far eluded capture, but U.S. and Afghan officials believe they are hiding out in Pakistan's rugged tribal belt on the border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan has deployed more than 70,000 troops to this region to flush out remnants of the Taliban and al Qaeda.

The arrests came hours after Pakistan's foreign ministry spokesman Jalil Abbas Jilani said Pakistani Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz will travel to Afghanistan on July 24 to discuss with Afghan President Hamid Karzai how the two countries could improve economic relations and ensure better coordination in the fight against terrorism.

By Riaz Khan