QUETTA, Pakistan – A detained Taliban spokesman has told his interrogators that the militia's fugitive chief, Mullah Mohammed Omar (search), is hiding in Afghanistan and is in contact with top commanders, an intelligence official said Wednesday.
Mullah Hakim Latifi (search), who has often claimed responsibility on behalf of the Taliban for attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces, was arrested earlier this week in Pakistan's southwestern Baluchistan province, Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said.
Latifi was not a prominent figure in the Taliban (search) while it was in power in Afghanistan, only becoming a media contact after the ouster of the movement in a U.S.-led war in 2001. His exact ties to the Taliban leadership are not known.
"So far, he has told interrogators that Mullah Omar is alive, he is in Afghanistan and he remains in contact with senior aides by satellite phone," said the Pakistani intelligence official, who was involved in the raid to arrest Latifi in Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the secretive nature of his job.
Some Pakistani officials said Latifi was arrested Tuesday, but the intelligence official said he was detained Sunday at a home in Quetta's Newi Killi neighborhood. The announcement of Latifi's arrest had been delayed because he was being interrogated about other Taliban leaders, the official said.
Four "low-level" aides of Latifi were arrested from several other homes in Newi Killi, the official said.
Intelligence agents seized two satellite phones, two Pakistani cell phones, Taliban literature, audio cassettes and CDs containing films of Taliban operations, he said.
Pakistani officials described Latifi as a Taliban spokesman. But information from Latifi 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.
Afghanistan welcomed Latifi's arrest. Relations between Pakistan and Afghanistan have sometimes been strained because of Kabul's suspicions that rebels are using Pakistan as a staging area for cross-border attacks. Pakistan denies it.
Rebels are active in the volatile south and east of Afghanistan, and have stepped up attacks this year. More than 1,300 people, including hundreds of militants, have died in the past seven months.
Pakistan was once a supporter of the Taliban, but withdrew its backing and became a chief ally of the U.S.-led coalition forces that ousted the militia, which refused to hand over Al Qaeda leader Usama bin Laden after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States.