The United States has confirmed that American forces have captured a high-ranking member of the Pakistani Taliban, the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).
State Department spokeswoman Marie Harf said U.S. forces captured Latif Mehsud in a military operation, but did not say where or when it occurred.
She described Mehsud as a senior commander and a “trusted confidant” of the Pakistani Taliban’s leader, Hakimullah Mehsud.
News reports said U.S. forces seized Latif Mehsud recently in Afghanistan.
Some reports said he was snatched by American troops as he was traveling with Afghan agents who were trying to recruit him to work toward peace talks with the Afghan and Pakistani governments.
Arsallah Jamal, governor of Logar Province in eastern Afghanistan, was quoted by The Associated Press as saying Mehsud was captured a week ago as he was driving along a highway that connects to Kabul. He said Mehsud was in a car with two or three other men when the U.S. military arrested him.
A report in the “Washington Post” quoted Aimal Faizi, a spokesman for Afghan President Hamid Karzai, as saying U.S. troops forcibly seized Mehsud and took him to Bagram air base, which includes a U.S.-run detention facility.
The report said Karzai had been angered by the U.S. seizure of Mehsud, which reportedly came after months of conversations between Mehsud and Afghan security agents.
A spokeswoman for the Pentagon, Commander Elissa Smith, said Mehsud was being held legally by U.S. military forces in Afghanistan, but did not specify where he is being detained.
News of Mehsud’s capture came as U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry flew into Kabul on October 11 for talks with Karzai about a pact - called a Bilateral Security Agreement - covering the future of U.S. forces in Afghanistan after foreign combat troops withdraw at the end of 2014.
Reports said Kerry and Karzai were expected to discuss the Mehsud case.
Latif Mehsud, thought to be about 30 years old, once served as a driver for Hakimullah Mehsud before rising in the ranks of the organization, which seeks to overthrow the U.S.-backed Pakistani government.
Hakimullah Mehsud took over leadership of the Pakistani Taliban in 2009, after his predecessor was killed in a U.S. drone strike.
The Pakistani Taliban, whose base is in the largely lawless zone along Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, has close links to Al-Qaeda militants, but remains a separate organization from the Afghan Taliban.
The United States accuses militants of using the Pakistani tribal districts along the border as a haven to plot attacks on Afghan and foreign forces in Afghanistan.
The Pakistani Taliban is believed to have trained Pakistani-American Faisal Shahzad in bomb-making techniques and funded his plot to detonate a car bomb in New York City's Times Square in May 2010.
The device failed to explode and was defused by a U.S. bomb squad. Shahzad is serving a life sentence in U.S. prison after confessing to the bombing attempt.
Based on reports from AFP, AP and Reuters