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Pakistan releases senior Taliban commander

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Taliban fighters stand with their weapons in Herat, Afghanistan, on February 18, 2012. (AFP/File)

Pakistan on Saturday released its most senior Afghan Taliban detainee, Abdul Ghani Baradar, a senior official of the interior ministry told AFP, in a move Kabul hopes will encourage peace talks with the insurgents.

"Yes Baradar has been released," Omar Hamid, a spokesman for Pakistan's interior ministry told AFP, without elaborating.

Baradar, a one-time military chief often described as the insurgents' former second-in-command, was the most high profile detained Taliban commander in Pakistan.

Pakistan's foreign ministry on Friday said that his release would facilitate Afghanistan's reconciliation process with the Taliban as a NATO combat mission there winds down.

The Afghan government has long demanded that Islamabad free Baradar, whose arrest in January 2010 saw Pakistan accused of sabotaging initiatives to bring peace to wartorn Afghanistan.

He was arrested in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi, reportedly in a secret raid by CIA and Pakistani agents, in an operation that was described as a huge blow to the Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan until a US-led invasion in 2001.

At the time of his arrest Baradar was reported to have been the Taliban's second-in-command, the right hand man of the Afghan Taliban's supreme commander Mullah Omar.

He was the most senior member of the Taliban held after US-led troops invaded Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, bringing down the Islamist regime.