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Officials: Pakistan Arrests Top Taliban Figure

By VOA News
03 January 2009

Pakistani security officials say they have arrested a former senior Taliban figure who was released by Afghanistan in 2007 in exchange for a kidnapped Italian journalist.

Authorities Saturday said they detained Ustad Mohammed Yasir, a former spokesman for Taliban leader Mullah Omar, in the northwestern city of Peshawar near the Afghan border. It is unclear when the arrest occurred.

Yasir served as Omar's spokesman after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan ousted the Taliban regime in 2001.

Pakistan first arrested the former spokesman in 2005 and sent him to Afghanistan, but he and four other Taliban were released in exchange for the freedom of Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo.

Separately Saturday, Pakistani officials say a roadside bomb attack killed two soldiers and wounded at least three others in southwestern Baluchistan province. Elsewhere in Baluchistan, police say suspected militants threw a hand grenade at an army vehicle, killing a civilian bystander and wounding at least seven others.

Ethnic Baluch tribesmen have been waging an insurgency in Baluchistan to press for a greater share of profits from the region's natural resources. Taliban militants also are known to be active in the province.

Many Taliban and al-Qaida militants fled into Pakistan after the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan.

The United States has pushed Pakistan to crack down on the militants, who have regrouped in the country's lawless tribal areas and launch frequent cross-border attacks against U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan. Militants also have stepped up attacks on the Western forces' supply route, which goes through Pakistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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