‘Pakistan swapped Taliban leaders for envoy’

May 28th, 2008 - 1:58 pm ICT by admin  

Islamabad, May 28 (IANS) Pakistan swapped two senior Taliban leaders for the release of its kidnapped envoy to Afghanistan, a media report said Wednesday. “Despite the fact that the government authorities have repeatedly denied the release, both the militant leaders reached Afghanistan around two weeks back,” The News said.

Quoting sources, it said the two leaders, identified as Mullah Obaidullah Akhund and Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, were freed along with “hundreds” of other militants to secure the release of Pakistani Ambassador to Afghanistan Tariq Azizuddin and 35 army personnel.

Rehman Malik, the adviser to the prime minister on interior affairs, denied the prisoner swap but an eminent jehadi leader from Afghanistan confirmed it, saying the two militant leaders had reached their homeland around two weeks back.

“The release of both the Taliban commanders was part of a package deal between the Pakistani authorities and the Taliban under which 35 Army personnel were also released besides Pakistani ambassador and his staff,” The News quoted the jehadi leader, who was not identified, as saying.

Taliban militants had kidnapped Azizuddin three months ago while he was travelling in Pakistan’s tribal areas in the country’s north. He was released on May 15.

The militant leaders, most wanted by the NATO command in Afghanistan, were captured by Pakistani authorities in separate operations.

Obaidullah, who was arrested March 1, 2007, is the most senior Taliban figure captured to date. US intelligence officials consider him to be one those closest to Osama bin Laden, as well as being part of the inner core of the Taliban leadership around Mullah Muhammad Omar.

Obaidullah is a member of the Taliban’s Shura Majlis or executive council, and is thought to be the third in command.

Dadullah was wounded and captured along with five of his lieutenants on Feb 11 while attempting to cross from Afghanistan into Pakistan.

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