Pakistani security forces killed a top figure in the Taliban militia fighting U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan, and captured four other militants Monday, a military official said.
Mansoor Dadullah, brother of the Taliban’s slain military commander Mullah Dadullah, was among five militants captured after a shootout near a seminary in Zhob district of southwestern Balochistan province around 10 a.m., a local intelligence official said while talking to the media.
A senior military official said Dadullah died of his wounds while being flown to a hospital with the other four injured men.
Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to journalists.
Dadullah’s demise comes amid growing Western pressure on Pakistan to crack down on Islamic militants launching attacks inside Afghanistan but increasingly destabilizing Pakistan itself.
In Afghanistan, officials reacted cautiously. Spokesmen at Afghanistan’s Interior and Defense ministries said they had no immediate comment. Lt. Col. David Accetta, the top U.S. military spokesman in Afghanistan, said he could not confirm the report.
Dadullah rose in the militia’s ranks as an important commander in southern Afghanistan after his brother was killed during a military operation in Afghanistan’s Helmand province in May. Mullah Dadullah was the highest-ranking Taliban commander killed since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
But in late December, Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid announced that Mansoor Dadullah had been dismissed from the movement for “disobeying orders” and conducting activities “against the Taliban’s rules and regulations.”
On Monday, Mujahid said Dadullah was still part of the Taliban movement, but that he was no longer an operational commander in southern Afghanistan. Mujahid said he had no comment to make about Dadullah’s reported capture and death.
Dadullah said in a phone interview in January that he remained a Taliban commander and had asked the militia’s supreme leader Mullah Omar to dispel “rumors” of his dismissal.
He also claimed that he had met with al-Qaida’s No. 2 Aymanal-Zawahri a few months ago but had never met with Osama bin Laden. He said Taliban and al-Qaida fighters in Helmand were fighting alongside each other and sharing tactics.
The Pakistani intelligence official identified those captured with Dadullah on Monday as Haji Lala, Khudai Dad, Khaliq Dad and Abdur Razzak, who were all wounded, some critically.
The operation was carried out in the Gwal Ismailzai village, 240 kilometers (150 miles) northeast of the Balochistan capital, Quetta, by a joint force of police, anti-terrorism forces and army commandos.
The intelligence official said the injured suspects were whisked away by an army helicopter from Zhob airport to an unknown destination.
Afghan and Western officials say that Pakistan’s border regions are a staging point for cross-border attacks on U.S., NATO and Afghan forces inside eastern and southern Afghanistan. Dadullah is the latest in a series of high-ranking Taliban militants to have been killed or captured either side of the border in the past year or so.
Pakistan, a key U.S. ally in its war on terrorism, concedes Taliban militants are active on its soil but has denied Omar and other militia leaders use Pakistan as a base of operations.