Pakistan Busts Taliban Spokesman

Pakistan forces arrested a spokesman for the Taliban, an "ally" of Al Qaeda but not part of the terror group's structure, Pakistani officials told FOX News on Tuesday.

Mullah Hakim Latifi (search), who has often claimed responsibility for the Taliban for attacks against U.S.-led coalition forces, was caught in southwestern Baluchistan province, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said.

Latifi was being interrogated "to see if and how recently he has been in contact with Usama bin Laden. It is well-known that the two have been in contact in the past," Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Tasnim Aslam confirmed to FOX News.

A U.S. official told FOX News the arrest of Latifi is "significant in a symbolic sense" in that U.S. intelligence anticipated that the arrest would not have a huge impact on the operations of the Taliban, which has been trying to reconstitute itself.

Baluchistan borders Afghanistan, and members of the Taliban are believed to have sought refuge in the area.

The Taliban militia ruled Afghanistan until the United States ousted it in a 2001 invasion.

"It is a big success. We were looking for him for a long time," Ahmed said.

Interior Minister Aftab Khan Sherpao confirmed the arrest. Another Interior Ministry official said Latifi had been using a Pakistani cellular phone and would be moved to Islamabad, the Pakistani capital, for questioning.

"He was tracked down on a tip in a Pakistani town," the official said. He spoke on condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to media.

Sherpao described Latifi as the Taliban's chief spokesman. But information from Hakimi in the past has sometimes proven exaggerated or untrue. Afghan and U.S. military officials say he is believed to speak for factions of the rebel group, though his exact ties to the Taliban leadership cannot be verified.

Latifi was not a prominent figure in the Taliban while the Islamic militia was in power, only becoming a media contact after the ouster of the movement.

The arrest came less than a week after Afghan President Hamid Karzai praised Pakistan for helping Afghanistan hold peaceful legislative elections on Sept. 18. Pakistan had deployed additional troops to prevent Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters from crossing the border into Afghanistan and disrupting the election.

In another development, a border bomb exploded Tuesday near a key crossing point on the Afghan-Pakistan border, killing three people and wounding 20, the latest in a series of recent attacks blamed on Taliban (search) insurgents.

The blast happened at a shop near the border gate at Spinboldak (search) in Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province, killing a woman and two boys, said district chief Abdul Wasi. Twenty people, including four women, were wounded. Some of the wounded were sent for treatment in Pakistan.

Local security chief Gen. Abdul Raziq (search) said Taliban militants were responsible.

In two separate clashes in southern provinces on Monday, Afghan security forces captured a district-level Taliban commander and killed another and four other militants.

Mullah Safar Mohammed, suspected of attacks on government and U.S.-led coalition forces, was arrested after fighting in the Shinkay district of southern Zabul province, a hotbed of the Taliban-led insurgency.

Ali Khail, spokesman for the Zabul governor, said Afghan army and police killed two militants and captured weapons and two satellite phones. Other militants involved in the fighting fled, he said.

In Shawali Kot district in Kandahar, militants ambushed security forces on patrol. District chief Hayatullah Jan said three suspected Taliban militants were killed, including their leader Mullah Abdullah Khan.

About 1,300 people have been killed in the past seven months in the worst insurgent violence since U.S.-led forces ousted the hard-line Taliban from power in 2001, when they refused to hand over Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden after the Sept. 11 attacks.

Pakistan was once a supporter of the Taliban, but withdrew its support and became a chief ally of the U.S.-led coalition forces that ousted the militia.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.