US officials claim that Pakistani intelligence arrested Taliban commander Mullah Baradar last week. Photo: AFP
US officials said today that Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, the top Afghan Taliban leader, was captured by Pakistan's ISI intelligence service on February 8th.
Baradar was seized in a morning raid on a madrassa near Karachi according to Pakistani security officials that spoke under amenity in a report by the BBC.
The capture is has come on the heels of a major NATO-Pakistan campaign against the Taliban in Southern Afghanistan.
US officials claim that the Taliban commander was captured in a raid on Madarassa Khuddamul Quran, near the Nooriabad Industrial Estate some 28 miles from Karachi, and it remains unknown whether any US officials were involved.
The Pakistan government has yet to confirm the arrest, and Taliban spokesmen deny that the arrest happened.
Mullah Baradar is reported to be in charge of all long-term strategic military planning for the Taliban in southern Afghanistan and, if confirmed, his arrest will have a very big effect on the Taliban's ability to conduct the insurgency there.
If Baradar is indeed in custody it will be a very big victory for the Obama administration which has stood behind the decision to increase troop levels, and work closer with NATO allies in crushing the Taliban resistance in Afghanistan.
Senior US officials said Mullah Baradar was "providing intelligence".
"This operation was an enormous success," one official told ABC News.
"It is a very big deal," the official said.
Of course the Taliban is denying such an arrest has taken place, asserting that the commander remains in Afghanistan planning and coordinating Taliban activity in the South.
"He has not been captured. They want to spread this rumor just to divert the attention of people from their defeats in Marjah and confuse the public," Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman told Reuters news agency, referring to the US-led NATO offensive in the Marjah area of Helmand province.