The Taliban's top military commander has been captured in Pakistan in a joint operation by Pakistani and U.S. intelligence forces, The New York Times reported.
Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar has been in Pakistan's custody for several days, the newspaper reported on its Web site late Monday, quoting U.S. government officials who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Baradar was captured in Karachi, Pakistan, in a raid by Pakistan's Directorate for Inter-Services Intelligence, with CIA operatives accompanying the Pakistanis, the Times reported. Pakistan has been leading the interrogation of Baradar, but Americans were also involved, it said.
The Times described Baradar as the No. 2 behind Taliban founder and Osama bin Laden associate Mullah Muhammad Omar. Baradar heads the Taliban's military council and was elevated in the body after the 2006 death of military chief Mullah Akhtar Mohammed Usmani.
Baradar is known to coordinate the movement's military operations throughout the south and southwest of Afghanistan. His area of direct responsibility stretches over Kandahar, Helmand, Nimroz, Zabul and Uruzgan provinces.
If confirmed, Baradar's arrest would be a major setback for the Taliban.
He may also have information on the whereabouts of Omar and bin Laden.
The Times said it learned of the operation against Baradar on Thursday but delayed reporting it at the request of White House officials who argued that publicizing it would end a valuable intelligence-gathering effort by making Baradar's associates aware of his capture. The newspaper said it decided to publish the news after White House officials acknowledged Baradar's capture was becoming widely known in the region.
The CIA declined comment late Monday on the Times report.
Word of Baradar's capture came as U.S. Marine and Afghan units pressed deeper into the Taliban haven of Marjah in southern Afghanistan, facing sporadic rocket and mortar fire as they moved through suspected insurgent neighborhoods on the third day of a NATO offensive to reclaim the town.
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