Top Pakistan Taliban leader captured

Feb. 20, 2013 at 10:22 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 20 (UPI) -- A senior member of the Pakistan Taliban has been captured in the border region between Afghanistan and Pakistan, Afghan officials said.

An Afghan official said the militant, Maulvi Faqir Muhammad, was captured during the weekend after U.S. airstrikes flushed him out of a more isolated area, The New York Times reported Tuesday.

"This is big news," a senior Pakistani security official said.

Members of the Afghan intelligence agency and Afghan Army special forces took Muhammad into custody Sunday along with four other militants in the Mohmand Dara district of Nangarhar province in eastern Afghanistan, Afghan officials said.

A member of the Pakistan Taliban told the Times news of Muhammad's capture spread quickly among the militant factions of the movement.

Muhammad, thought to be in his 40s, fled to Afghanistan in 2010 following an operation by Pakistan's military in his stronghold in Bajaur tribal agency.

Muhammad, once deputy leader of the Pakistan Taliban, had fallen out of favor with the movement's leaders after he tried to initiate peace talks, the Times said, but he may have regained some stature recently as Pakistan Taliban have made some movement toward holding such talks.

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