Report: U.S. soldiers capture prominent Taliban leader

Monday, December 24th 2001, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ American soldiers in Afghanistan recently captured a high-level leader of the defeated Taliban movement, a news agency reported Monday.

Abdul Haq Wasiq, deputy chief of the Taliban's intelligence department, was detained in an operation in Gazni province, southwest of the Afghan capital of Kabul, according to the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press.

There was no independent confirmation of the report, which cited anonymous sources. A spokesman for the U.S.-led coalition against terrorism, Kenton Keith, said in Islamabad on Monday that he had no information on the capture.

The agency said U.S. military helicopters swooped into the area around Maqaur town where Wasiq was hiding. Maqaur is about 150 miles southwest of Kabul, about halfway along the road between the capital and the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar in southern Afghanistan.

The Afghan Islamic Press did not say when Wasiq was captured.

U.S. and anti-Taliban Afghan officials say 7,000 Taliban and al-Qaida fighters are in custody, but they have yet to determine whether they include any prominent figures. The Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, and many top Taliban officials are believed to remain at large, although some may have been killed in U.S. bombing.

Tribal leaders in southern Afghanistan have said Omar is hiding out in a mountainous area northwest of Kandahar, and some suspect former Taliban ministers are lying low in Pakistan with the help of local authorities. Pakistan, a former ally of the Taliban, denies the allegations.