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Thursday, 20 December, 2001, 13:15 GMT
Pakistan holds senior Taleban official
Aghan refugees at Chaman border crossing
The Taleban official tried to slip across the busy border
Reports say Pakistan secret service agents have detained a senior Taleban official on the border with Afghanistan.

He is being questioned and he may be sent back to Afghanistan

Pakistani border official Sher Mohammad

A reporter for the Reuters news agency saw plainclothes personnel pick up Aminullah Amin, former Taleban border security chief for the southern half of the frontier.

It is the first arrest of a Taleban leader in Pakistan since the Islamic militia were forced out of power.

A Pakistani border official told the AFP news agency that Mr Amin was under interrogation and could be transferred back to Afghanistan.

The arrest followed the capture by Pakistani security forces of hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters as they fled across the border from Afghanistan,

In other developments:

  • Afghan authorities say they will limit the carrying of weapons on the streets of Kabul once the interim government takes over.
  • Major aid donors to Afghanistan gather in Brussels to debate the massive amount of aid required for the country to rebuild after two decades of war.
  • The first person to be formally accused in connection with the 11 September attacks, Zacarias Moussaoui, is remanded in custody after appearing in court in Virginia
  • FBI agents interrogate alleged al-Qaeda members at a detention centre at Kandahar airport
  • Pashtun forces in Kandahar step up their search for the Taleban spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar

Border seizure

Mr Amin was seized as he tried to cross into southwest Pakistan at the Chaman border crossing.

He was previously based at Spin Boldak, just across the border from Chaman.

"He is being questioned and he may be sent back to Afghanistan," Pakistani border official Sher Mohammad told AFP.

Pakistani soldiers board a helicopter to patrol the border area with Afghanistan
The border area with Afghanistan is difficult to patrol

Despite the dramatic collapse of the Taleban regime, there has still been no sign of Taleban spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.

US officials have also admitted they have lost all trace of Osama Bin Laden, suspected of masterminding the 11 September attacks on New York and Washington.

US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has said captured fighters from Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network "should be a treasure trove" of intelligence leads.

Speaking at a Pentagon briefing, Mr Rumsfeld said US and Pakistani officials would interrogate the detainees for vitally needed information.

Mr Rumsfeld, who had returned from a Nato meeting in Brussels, told reporters the US was also expanding a detention centre at Kandahar air base in southern Afghanistan for captured al-Qaeda members.

Al-Qaeda escape

As he spoke, Pakistani security forces were searching for a group of al-Qaeda fighters who escaped from a prison van after a clash that left 11 people dead.

The Pakistani authorities said about 100 prisoners were being taken in a convoy of vans to the town of Peshawar when the trouble started.

The border incident happened near the town of Sadda in the semi-autonomous Kurram tribal agency, about 300 kilometres west of Peshawar.

A group of al-Qaeda prisoners - said to be Arabs - overpowered their guards and seized weapons, triggering a gun battle in which five soldiers and six of the prisoners were killed.

Pakistani officials said the driver of one of the vans was shot in the struggle and the vehicle overturned.

In the confusion, about 40 prisoners managed to escape - but some have already been recaptured.

The men were captured on Tuesday while trying to cross into Pakistan from Afghanistan.

The BBC's Farhan Bokhari, reporting from Lahore, says this is the bloodiest clash between Pakistani security forces and al-Qaeda members since the US-led campaign against Osama Bin Laden and his followers began.

Pakistan in pursuit

Mr Rumsfeld praised the Pakistani army's role, saying it was "doing a good job" in guarding the border with Afghanistan.

Hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters are believed to have crossed into Pakistan after their camps and hideouts in the Tora Bora region of the White Mountain range were targeted in heavy US bombing raids and ground attacks by Afghan forces.

Mr Rumsfeld said air bombardments in Afghanistan had now virtually ceased.

However, he warned that despite the allies recent successes, Osama Bin Laden - the main suspect behind the attacks on America - and the al-Qaeda network remained dangerous.

The BBC's Behroz Khan
"The entire area is closed"
See also:

19 Dec 01 | South Asia
FBI probes prisoners for clues
14 Dec 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Pakistan's tribal frontiers
18 Dec 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden's disappearing act
20 Dec 01 | UK Politics
UK hails anti-terror progress
20 Dec 01 | UK Politics
Afghan aid 'not getting through'
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