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Pakistani Authorities Capture 2 Senior Taleban Leaders - 2002-01-30

Authorities in Pakistan have captured two senior leaders of Afghanistan's ousted extremist Taleban movement.

Pakistani security forces have said they detained the two men in separate raids on villages near the southwestern border city, Quetta. The detainees are identified as the ousted Taleban's chief justice Noor Mohammed Saqib and deputy foreign minister Abdul Rehman Zahid.

They are believed to have fled to Pakistan days after the U.S.-led coalition launched strikes on the regime in early October.

Chief justice Saqib is the most senior leader to have been detained since the Islamic Taleban was driven from power in November under U.S. led air strikes and a lightning advance by anti-Taleban forces.

Mr. Saqib is best known for presiding over the trial of eight western aid workers accused of preaching Christianity in Afghanistan. The aid workers, including two American women, were freed soon after the U.S. led air strikes in Afghanistan began.

The Taleban's ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, was detained in December and handed over to U.S. authorities. But most of the movement's top officials, including leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, remain at large.

The hardline Taleban, which controlled most of Afghanistan until late last year was punished for harboring alleged terrorist, Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network. The Saudi-born Islamic militant is also still at large, despite a massive manhunt by U.S. ground forces and their Afghan allies.