Former Taliban defense minister arrested

Pakistan has arrested former Taliban defense minister Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, regarded as top figure in the insurgent movement, a Pakistani intelligence official said Friday. There was no immediate confirmation from the government. Akhund was among five Taliban suspects arrested in a raid on a home in the southwestern city of Quetta earlier this week, said the official, who requested anonymity because he was not authorized to comment to journalists. Akhund, said to be a key associate of fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar, would be the most senior leader from the Taliban to be nabbed since its ouster from power in Afghanistan over five years ago. Brig. Javed Iqbal Cheema, a senior Interior Ministry official handling counterterrorism issues, denied late Thursday that a top Taliban figure had been arrested. Also, Tariq Khosa, police chief of Baluchistan province where Quetta is located, said he was not aware of Akhund's arrest.