Taleban betrays commander to Pakistan over his MI6 contacts
View GalleryBy Jerome Starkey in Kabul;The Scotsman, Feb. 12, 2008
A SENIOR Taleban commander was wounded and captured in a three-hour shoot-out yesterday, amid claims he was betrayed by his masters for talking to British spies.
Mansoor Dadullah was clinging to life after Pakistani commandos attacked his hideout in a remote tribal area close to the Afghan border.
The insurgent was mastermind behind dozens of attacks on British troops in Afghanistan's lawless Helmand province.
But he was allegedly sacked by the extremists' spiritual leader, Mullah Omar, for negotiating with MI6. He was also blamed for losing Musa Qala, a Taleban stronghold in Helmand, which fell to British and Afghan troops last year.
Pakistani officials admitted they received an intelligence tip-off ahead of the raid. The local police chief, Saud Gohar, said: "We had reports of his presence from intelligence sources. He was hiding in a house in the village."
It is thought Mansoor may have been double-crossed as part of a deal between the hardline "neo" Taleban in Pakistan, and local security forces.
It comes less than a fortnight after a senior al-Qaeda commander, Abu Laith al-Libi, was killed by an American rocket attack in Pakistan's northern Waziristan province.
Terrorism analysts believe Pakistan's intelligence service, the ISI, may have passed the United States details of Libi's whereabouts to relieve US pressure on Islamabad over insurgent activity.
Pakistan denies international claims its border is a safe haven for religious extremists, who use it to launch attacks against Nato troops in neighbouring Afghanistan. But the operation against Mansoor came a day after Robert Gates, the US defence secretary, warned that sanctuaries in the tribal areas pose a direct threat to Islamabad.
A spokesman for Pakistan's army claimed Mansoor was seized as he sneaked across the border from Afghanistan. Major- General Athar Abbas said Mansoor refused to stop at a checkpoint. He said: "Security personnel returned fire. As a result, all of them sustained injuries and all of them were captured. Dadullah (Mansoor] was arrested alive, but he is critically wounded."
Mansoor was in charge of Taleban operations across southern Afghanistan. He took over from his brother, Mullah Dadullah, who was killed by British special forces in Helmand last year.
Mansoor said in a phone interview in January that he remained a Taleban commander and had asked Mullah Omar, to dispel "rumours" of his dismissal.
He also claimed that he had met with al-Qaeda's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, a few months ago. He said Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters in Helmand were fighting alongside each other and sharing tactics.
At least five other militants were also wounded and captured during the operation yesterday, security officials said.
The arrests coincided with a rare announcement from Mullah Omar.
In a statement, published in the Afghan Islamic Press, he said: "We want legitimate relations with countries of the world and we are not a threat to anyone.
"If foreign troops leave Afghanistan, that will be a victory for the people of Afghanistan."
AMBASSADOR GOES MISSING
PAKISTAN'S ambassador to Afghanistan went missing yesterday while travelling by road through a Pakistani tribal region where Taleban militants have become increasingly active in recent months, officials said.
Ambassador Tariq Azizuddin was being driven through the Khyber region on his way back to Kabul when he disappeared, according to officials.
"He's been missing since 11am (0600 GMT)," said a security official in the Khyber region. The envoy was due to have changed cars at the border, but is not believed to have reached the frontier.
Four Pakistani Red Cross workers went missing in the same area a few days ago.
"The foreign ministry cannot comment as it is still obtaining information," a ministry spokesman said.
More than 400 people across Pakistan have been killed in militant-related violence since the beginning of this year alone.