KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan intelligence officers have arrested a senior Pakistan Taliban commander who was hiding out in eastern Afghanistan, a security official said on Tuesday. The capture could help improve strained relations between the two neighbors.
Maulvi Faqir Mohammed was arrested over the weekend in eastern Nangarhar province near the Pakistani frontier, said the security official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.
Two Pakistani intelligence officials confirmed the capture. They also spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.
Mohammed, who was deputy head of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, fell out with the Taliban's leadership in 2011 for saying the group was in peace negotiations with the Pakistani government. The Taliban recently claimed it patched up relations with the militant commander after the group announced that it was now ready to hold negotiations with the government.
Mohammed, who is reportedly in his 40s, was one of the Pakistani Taliban's top commanders and led the network's operations in the Bajur and Mohmand tribal areas along the Afghan border. He fled to Afghanistan in 2010 after the Pakistani military raided his stronghold in Bajur. Maulvi is an honorific religious title.
Relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan have been strained because of allegations that Kabul is allowing Pakistani Taliban to shelter and carry out attacks inside Pakistan from the Afghan side of the rugged and mountainous border. Afghanistan and the U.S.-led NATO coalition say Pakistan is not doing enough to go after Afghan Taliban fighters operating from safe havens in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas — located on the other side of the frontier.
According to the Afghan and Pakistani officials, Mohammed was arrested with at least two of his associates. The Afghan official said he had been brought to a detention center in Kabul.
The Pakistani officials said that at the time of his arrest, Mohammed was trying to cross into Pakistan.
The TTP was set up five years ago as an umbrella organization to unite violent militant groups in Pakistan's tribal areas. It is led by Hakimullah Mehsud who recently offered to start peace talks with the government.
Pakistan's war with the TTP has so far cost the lives of 4,000 soldiers and forced thousands of people from their homes.
Associated Press writers Patrick Quinn in Kabul, Afghanistan, and Anwarullah Khan in Khar, Pakistan, contributed to this report.