Pakistan nabs Taliban commander

July 16, 2014 - 2:07:09 am

DERA ISMAIL KHAN: The Pakistani military has captured a Taliban commander who once tried to blow up former president Pervez Musharraf, security officials said yesterday.

Adnan Rashid, who was captured on Friday in South Waziristan in northwest Pakistan near the Afghan border, is the first well-known Taliban commander taken since the military launched an offensive in neighbouring North Waziristan last month.

He was injured in a shoot-out during his capture in a house where he was living with his family in the Wana area of South Waziristan, the officials said.

The Pakistan army indicated yesterday that it would expand its offensive into the Bajaur tribal region, further north. The Pakistani Taliban, meanwhile, said it would continue to ramp up attacks on Pakistan‎i security forces in Bajaur, along the Afghan border.

Rashid, believed to be in his mid-30s, is a former Pakistani air force officer who tried to become a suicide bomber before he was jailed for a 2003 attempt to blow up then-President Musharraf. He escaped from jail in 2012 along with nearly 400 other militants. Following his release, he claimed responsibility for masterminding another jailbreak that freed 250 prisoners.

He also made a series of YouTube videos and wrote an open letter attempting to justify the assassination attempt on schoolgirl activist Malala Yousafzai.

Also yesterday, five Pakistani soldiers were killed in gunfights with militants during an army offensive against insurgent hideouts in a northwestern tribal area, the military said.

The two clashes happened near the town of Mirali in North Waziristan.

The military said two soldiers were killed “in an intense exchange of fire with terrorists in and around Mirali”, while three others were killed in a gunfight with militants in the nearby Fateh Khel area.

Eleven militants were killed in the clashes, the military added.

The area is off-limits to journalists, so the number and identity of those killed cannot be independently verified.

A security official said that the army had begun ground operations in the Mirali and nearby Dattakhel areas on Monday.