Latif Mehsud, second-in-command of Pakistani Taliban forces, has been captured by American forces and is being held by the U.S. military in Afghanistan, U.S. officials told NBC News on Friday.
The officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, confirmed reports out of Pakistan that Mehsud was "arrested" by U.S. forces as he was driving along a highway in eastern Afghanistan, but provided no other details.
The Washington Post reported that Mehsud was captured as he traveled with an Afghan government convoy, and that his arrest had infuriated Afghan President Hamid Karzai.
Mehsud, a former bodyguard and close confidante of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) chief Hakimullah Mehsud, was reported to have been elevated to the position of deputy emir in the militant group. A report published late last month said he was also appointed as the commander of the TTP in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan tribal region.
The Pakistani Taliban are not directly connected to the Afghan Taliban, and have mainly conducted terror attacks against elements of the Pakistani state. The group did, however, claim responsibility for the 2009 suicide bombing of Camp Chapman in Afghanistan, which killed seven CIA officers, and an attempted car bombing in New York City’s Times Square in 2010.
In a statement Friday, Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., and a senior member of the House Intelligence Committee, compared the capture of Mehsud to last weekend’s raid in Libya in which U.S. commandos snatched reputed al Qaeda leader Abu Anas al-Libi.
"TTP has killed countless people in Pakistan at market squares, road-sides, churches and mosques,” Schiff said. “It has also tried to organize attacks on the U.S. homeland, as we saw in the attempt on Times Square several years ago. Together with the capture of Al-Libi last week, the United States has taken key terrorist figures off the battlefield and given us the opportunity to acquire critical information to protect our country and our allies."
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First published October 11 2013, 11:37 AM