updated 10/4/2005 10:23:21 AM ET 2005-10-04T14:23:21

Pakistan said Tuesday that it had arrested a spokesman for the Taliban, the militia that ruled Afghanistan until it was ousted in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001.

Mullah Hakim Latifi, who has often claimed responsibility for the Taliban for attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces, was caught in southwestern Baluchistan province, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said.

Baluchistan borders Afghanistan, and members of the Taliban are believed to have sought refuge in the area.

“It is a big success. We were looking for him for a long time,” Ahmed said.

Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao confirmed the arrest. Another Interior Ministry official said Latifi had been using a Pakistani cellular phone and would be moved to Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, for questioning.

“He was tracked down on a tip in a Pakistani town,” the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to media.

Doubts about his job
Sherpao described Latifi as the Taliban’s chief spokesman. But information from Hakimi in the past has sometimes proven exaggerated or untrue. Afghan and U.S. military officials say he is believed to speak for factions of the rebel group, though his exact ties to the Taliban leadership cannot be verified.

Latifi was not a prominent figure in the Taliban while the Islamic militia was in power, only becoming a media contact after the ouster of the movement.

The arrest came less than a week after Afghan President Hamid Karzai praised Pakistan for helping Afghanistan hold peaceful legislative elections on Sept. 18. Pakistan had deployed additional troops to prevent Taliban and al-Qaida fighters from crossing the border into Afghanistan and disrupting the election.

Rebels are active in the volatile south and east of Afghanistan, and have stepped up attacks this year. More than 1,300 people, including hundreds of militants, have died in the past seven months.

Pakistan was once a supporter of the Taliban, but withdrew its support and became a chief ally of the U.S.-led coalition forces that ousted the militia.

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