WASHINGTON, October 11 (RIA Novosti) – The United States said Friday that it has captured a senior commander with the Pakistani Taliban inside Afghanistan, a move that reportedly enraged Afghan President Hamid Karzai amid negotiations between Washington and Kabul over the presence of American troops in the war-torn nation.
“I can confirm that US forces did capture TTP [Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan] terrorist leader Latif Mehsud in a military operation,” US State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf told a news briefing, adding that she had no further details about the operation.
US officials speaking on condition of anonymity told NBC News on Friday that Mehsud was “arrested” by US personnel as he was driving on a highway in eastern Afghanistan, the US network reported.
TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, has claimed responsibility for the attempted 2010 bombing of Times Square in New York City, has vowed to attack the US homeland again, and is “responsible for attacking our diplomats in Pakistan and attacks that have killed countless Pakistani civilians,” she said.
The group also claimed responsibility for the murder of a group of tourists in northern Pakistan in June that included one Russian and five Ukrainian citizens in what it called retaliation for a leader’s death in a US drone attack.
It has waged an insurgency against Islamabad over the past decade from bases along the border with Afghanistan, where it has also assisted Taliban fighters in their war against US-led forces, The Associated Press (AP) reported.
The confirmation of his arrest followed US media reports Thursday citing Afghan and Pakistani officials as saying that Mehsud was taken into custody by American forces while driving in Afghanistan.
Karzai has not spoken publicly about the detention but was outraged by what he considers a violation of his country’s sovereignty, according to the reports.
In an interview published by The Washington Post on Thursday, Karzai spokesman Aimal Faizi referred to the detained individual as a top Taliban commander but declined to identify Mehsud by name.
“The Americans forcibly removed him and took him to Bagram,” Faizi was quoted by the Post as saying, referring to the US military facility and former Soviet air base where American forces are holding dozens of Afghan detainees.
Washington’s confirmation Friday of Mehsud’s capture coincided with a surprise visit to Kabul by US Secretary of State John Kerry for negotiations with Karzai over a possible deal to allow US troops to remain in Afghanistan after the formal conclusion of the NATO-led military operation there by the end of 2014, the AP reported.