Pakistani security forces claim to have captured and wounded a top Taliban commander in a shootout Monday. The army forces ambushed Mansoor Dadullah, the brother of the Islamist movement's slain military chief in Afghanistan, and seven other rebels in southwestern Baluchistan province as they crossed into Pakistani-Afghan border from Afghanistan.
Mansoor's brother, Mullah Dadullah, was a top Taliban leader killed last year
The news comes at a time when US officials -- who're increasingly weary of growing violence in Pakistan – have been warning that senior Taliban militant leaders are a major threat along the Pak-Afghan border.
Apparently, Pakistani security forces were tipped off about Dadullah's presence in a village in Baluchistan, and were swift to close in on him.
Mansoor Dadullah had succeeded his elder brother, Mullah Dadullah, the Taliban's top military commander in the southern Afghan province of Helmand, who was killed in an Afghan and NATO operation in May 2007.
Dadullah dismissed by the Taliban
Last year, Mansoor Dadullah had been involved in negotiations aimed at bringing him and hundreds of Taliban fighters into the Afghan government reconciliation process, according to Kabul-based diplomats. But the prospective deal fell apart when Afghan President Hamid Karzai expelled two European diplomats involved in the negotiations at the end of last year, saying he had not been informed of the talks.
However, in retaliation for trying to broker peace with foreigners, it is believed the Taliban's top commander, Mullah Mohammad Omar, dismissed Mansoor, accusing him for insubordination, a charge Dadullah denied.
Security experts suspect that Pakistan's intelligence agency, ISI, might have been tipped off about Dadullah's whereabouts by Taliban officials eager to purge him.
It is widely believed that Mansoor Dadullah was one of the five Taliban who were freed in May last year in exchange for a kidnapped Italian journalist, Daniele Mastrogiacomo, although the Afghan government denies it.
Will Dadullah's capture weaken the Taliban insurgency?
Even if Dadullah was still a part of the Taliban, as he had claimed, his capture wouldn't significantly weaken the Taliban insurgency, according to Dr. Najeeb Manalai, a research analyst from the Centre for Conflict and Peace Studies in Kabul. "He was not a very important figure like his brother. He was one of the committed members of the Taliban, so his loss will only have (a level bit) of impact on Taliban's activities, but it isn't expected to be very visible," he said.
Meanwhile, US Defence Secretary Robert Gates has urged European nations to contribute more troops and resources in the fight against the Taliban led insurgency that was its deadliest last year. In response, Mullah Mohammad Omar has asked the international community to distance itself from the United States' campaign in Afghanistan.