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Pakistan Arrests Two Senior Afghan Taliban Leaders

An Afghan soldier frisks a farmer during a patrol in Helmand Province.
KONDUZ, Afghanistan (Reuters) -- Pakistan has captured two "shadow governors" belonging to Afghanistan's Taliban movement, an Afghan official said today.

The timing of the reported arrests coincides with the capture of the Taliban's second-in-command, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, in Pakistan's Karachi by Pakistani and U.S. agents this month.

The arrests of Mullah Abdul Salam and Mullah Mir Mohammad, respectively the shadow governors of the northern Afghan provinces of Konduz and Baghlan, happened in Pakistan's Baluchistan Province, the Afghan governor for Konduz said.

"My information about their capture, which occurred nearly a week ago, is based on national intelligence sources," Mohammad Omar told Reuters.

Pakistan has yet to comment about the report on the arrest of the two men, who both reported to Baradar.

Since their ouster from power by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001, the Taliban have appointed shadow governors whose primary responsibility is organizing Taliban military activities.

The reported detentions come after mounting criticism by some U.S. officials who say Islamabad is not tackling Afghan Taliban militants based on it soil, using it as a base for carrying out attacks on Afghan and foreign troops across the border.

Washington has hailed Pakistan for the capture of Baradar, the seniormost Taliban leader to be held since the movement's ouster from power in Afghanistan more than eight years ago.

Baradar's capture coincides with the launch of a huge offensive by NATO and Afghan forces to flush the Taliban out of their biggest bastion in Helmand Province, while the Afghan government is reaching out to them for possible reconciliation.