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Pakistani forces capture top militant

A former Taliban front-line military commander has been arrested in connection with the abduction of three U.N. workers in Afghanistan in October, a senior Pakistan official said Saturday.

Syed Akbar Agha, chief of Jaish-al Muslimeen, or Army of Muslims, was captured in the southern city of Karachi this week, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed told The Associated Press.

He gave no other details.

Another senior leader of Syed Akbar Agha confirmed Agha’s arrest.

“According to our information, he was arrested along with his wives and children from Karachi,” said the man, who spoke on condition that he not be named.

Armed men seized Annetta Flanigan from Northern Ireland, Philippine diplomat Angelito Nayan and Shqipe Hebibi of Kosovo on Oct. 28. They were freed unharmed in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Nov. 23.

Pakistan has been searching for Agha, who used a cell phone to contact media outlets to claim responsibility for the abductions.

Afghan and U.S. officials had sought Islamabad’s help to track him down, an intelligence official said.

Expelled from Taliban
The official, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity, said Agha’s real name was Haji Fazal Karim.

Agha is a former Afghan commander who joined the country’s Taliban militia as it swept toward power in 1995, according to Pakistan’s largest-circulation newspaper The News. He served as the Taliban military commander in the then-front line at Maidan Shahr, capital of Wardak province west of Kabul, for 11 months, it said.

Agha was later expelled from the Taliban by its chief, Mullah Mohammad Omar.

Agha in a recent interview told The News that he launched his group in December 2001 after the fall of the Taliban regime to fight U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan and liberate his homeland. His group has claimed a number of attacks on U.S. and Afghan troops.

Ahmed said Agha was being interrogated by Pakistani security agencies but would not say whether he would be turned over to Afghan authorities.

“He is right now in our custody, and we have the capability to interrogate people like him,” he told Geo television.

After the kidnapping, Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said Agha’s group may have hired bandits to abduct the U.N. workers, who helped organize Afghanistan’s Oct. 9 presidential election.

Agha last month told AP that he would free the trio if Afghan authorities accepted the group’s demand for the release of 26 prisoners held in Afghanistan and elsewhere.

Agha’s group said 15 of the prisoners they wanted released were seized by American troops near the southern border town of Spin Boldak last month. The others were detained earlier and some may have been transferred to the U.S. military facility at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Afghan officials insist the three were freed without the payment of a ransom or any other concessions being made to the kidnappers, who abandoned their captives on a street in Kabul.