NATO says prominent Taliban commander detained in southern Afghanistan

NATO-led troops and Afghan forces detained a prominent Taliban commander during a raid on a compound in southern Afghanistan, the alliance said Wednesday.

The arrested commander, whom NATO did not identify, was captured in the Gereshk district of Helmand province late Tuesday after fleeing a recent military offensive, NATO said in a statement.

NATO spokesman Squadron Leader Dave Marsh claimed the militant was the leader of the insurgents in Panjwayi district of neighboring Kandahar province, where last summer NATO troops waged their biggest ground offensive in the Western alliance's history.

"This seizure of a Taliban commander, once again shows that there is nowhere to hide for insurgent leaders" Marsh said.

The raid came a day after Afghan agents arrested Mohammad Hanif, one of two spokesmen who often contacted journalists on behalf of the Taliban, in eastern Afghanistan.

Sayed Ansari, the spokesman for Afghanistan's intelligence service, told reporters Wednesday that the Taliban spokesman's real name is Abdulhaq Haji Gulroz, a 26-year-old Afghan from Nangarhar's Chaparhar district.

Ansari said Hanif had lived in northwestern Pakistani city of Peshawar and had told investigators that the Taliban's reclusive leader Mullah Omar was living in the southwestern Pakistani city of Quetta, protected by that country's Inter-Services Intelligence agency.

Ansari said Hanif was arrested in Hisar Shahi district of Nangahar province, 23 kilometers (14 miles) east of Nangarhar's capital Jalalabad, on Monday, although a day earlier, Ansari had said Hanif was nabbed in a different location after crossing through an international border checkpoint from Pakistan.

It wasn't clear why Ansari changed his account of the arrest.

Noor Agha Zooak, a spokesman for the governor of the Nangarhar province, said Wednesday that Hanif and his two associates, Asadullah and Tavab Nijazi, were arrested in a raid at a house and were being held in Jalalabad. The troops recovered weapons, cell phones and other documents, which they showed to journalists in that city on Wednesday.

Another purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, confirmed Hanif's arrest in a phone call from an undisclosed location, but said that the Taliban's governing body have already appointed a new spokesman, Zadiullah Mujahid.

He said the arrest would not affect the Taliban's campaign.

Hanif used to convey alleged statements from Omar and comment on fighting in the north, center and east of the country.

Western and Afghan officials have claimed a number of recent successes against Taliban leaders, reports AP.

Last month, a U.S.-led coalition airstrike killed Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani, a key associate of Omar and the highest-ranking Taliban leader killed by the U.S.-led coalition since the late 2001 invasion of Afghanistan that ousted the hardline regime for hosting al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden.

Over the past year, the Taliban have launched a record number of attacks, and some 4,000 people have died in the insurgency-related violence, according to a tally by The Associated Press based on reports from Afghan, NATO and coalition officials.

Pakistan, a former supporter of the Taliban but now a key U.S. ally in its war on terrorism, denies providing sanctuary to Taliban leaders.

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