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Former Pakistani Taliban Spokesman Caught

Maulvi Omar in an undated photograph
ISLAMABAD (Reuters) -- Pakistani forces have captured a senior aide to Baituallah Mehsud, the Pakistani Taliban chief who was believed to have been killed recently in a missile strike by a U.S. drone, military officials said.

Maulvi Omar was captured by a pro-government militia in the the Mohmand region on the Afghan border on August 17 and had been handed over to government forces, one official said.

The arrest came as U.S. special envoy to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke, was visiting Pakistan and coincided with reports of infighting within the Pakistani Taliban since the report of Mehsud's death on August 5.

"Yes, we have arrested Maulvi Omar and he will shortly be produced before the media," a senior military official, who declined to be identified, told Reuters.

He gave no more details. Another military official confirmed the capture.

Omar was the spokesman for the Mehsud-led Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), or Taliban Movement of Pakistan, a loose alliance of 13 militant factions, although several months ago he was removed as the chief spokesman for the alliance.

Mehsud was an Al-Qaeda cohort blamed for a wave of bombings across Pakistan, including the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Major Fazal-ur-Rehman, spokesman for the paramilitary Frontier Corps, confirmed the arrest of an "an important commander" of the Taliban but declined to give his name.

Pakistani and U.S. officials are almost certain that Mehsud was killed along with his wife and some guards in the missile strike on his father-in-law's home in the South Waziristan region on the Afghan border.

However, his aides insist he is alive.

Holbrooke told reporters traveling with him to Pakistan on the weekend Mehsud was "gone" and it looked as if there was a struggle for succession among his commanders.

The TTP has appointed a new spokesman, Azam Tariq, since the apparent death of Mehsud.

This week, Islamabad police arrested another senior Taliban member, identified as Saifullah, who police said was planning to carry out attacks in the capital, said police spokesman Naeem Ahmed.