The former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, who became an internationally known spokesman for the fundamentalist movement, has sent a letter saying that American forces are holding him in Afghanistan, his relatives said.

Abdul Salam Zaeef was arrested by Pakistani authorities and handed over to the United States in January, and his whereabouts have been shrouded in mystery ever since. His family hadn't heard from him until they received a letter delivered by the International Committee for the Red Cross earlier this month.

In the short letter, seen by The Associated Press, Zaeef says he is being held by the Americans at a base in Kandahar, where the U.S. military maintains a holding area for captured Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners.

The letter, which was translated from Pashtu, was sent to Zaeef's uncles.

"I pray to Allah Almighty for your good health and well being," Zaeef wrote in the letter. "I am imprisoned by the Americans in Kandahar. Please pray that I remain steadfast in my belief and also please pray for my well being. Also pray that Allah Almighty will make everything easy for me to bear."

A Pentagon spokesman, Marine Corps Lt. Col. David Lapan, said that as a matter of wartime policy the Pentagon does not comment on individual detainees or their whereabouts.

After the Sept. 11 airborne assaults on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, Zaeef became the international voice of the Taliban. His daily news conferences from the sprawling lawns of the Afghan Embassy in Islamabad were carried live on major television networks in September and October.