ISLAMABAD, Dec. 7 (UPI) -- The U.S. military transferred custody of an imprisoned senior commander in the Pakistani Taliban to the government of Pakistan, according to officials.
Latif Mehsud had been detained at Bagram Airfield in Afghanistan since his capture in Oct. 2013. He was second-in-command to the chief of the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Hakimullah Mehsud, who was killed in a U.S. drone strike in 2013.
The U.S. military recently confirmed the transfer of three Pakistani nationals to the Islamabad government but declined to provide identities. Pakistani officials told the BBC that Latif Mehsud had been "released" and indicated he was secretly flown into Pakistan earlier this week.
The TTP, also known as the Pakistani Taliban, has since 2007 been at war with the Islamabad government, but both sides have engaged in talks since February. The militant group has been tied to attacks on U.S. personnel in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well as civilian targets in the United States.
"TTP claimed responsibility for the attempted bombing of Times Square in 2010 and has vowed to attack the U.S. homeland again," Marie Harf, deputy spokesperson for the U.S. State Department, said last year. "TPP is also responsible for attacking our diplomats in Pakistan and attacks that have killed countless Pakistani civilians."
The U.S. military released a statement saying it takes into account a multitude of elements when deciding to transfer a detainee, such as the "totality of relevant factors relating to the individual and the government that may receive him, including but not limited to any diplomatic assurances that have been provided."
BBC correspondents say the transfer of a senior commander such as Mehsud is unusual and could signal efforts to improve soured relations between Afghanistan and Pakistan, though U.S. officials said the Afghan government was not involved in the transfer.