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Reported Islamic State Inroads Into Pakistan Raise Alarm

FILE - Pakistani Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid (C), flanked by bodyguards, is seen talking to reporters at an undisclosed location in Pakistani tribal area of Waziristan, Oct. 5, 2013.

The reported arrest of a local Islamic State leader in Lahore is the latest in a series of signs the Syria and Iraq-based militant group has expanded into Pakistan.

Reuters, quoting intelligence sources Wednesday, says Pakistani security forces arrested a man they believe is the commander of the IS branch in the country. It said two accomplices who helped recruit and send fighters to Syria were also arrested.

Pakistani officials had previously denied any encroachment by IS into their country. But a video posted online earlier this month shows Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid pledging allegiance to the self-styled caliph of the Islamic State, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, on behalf of leaders of various extremist groups in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Defense analyst and former Pakistan military general, Talat Masoud, told VOA Deewa, “The news of IS making recruitments in Pakistan seems to be true. The reason is that obviously the IS desires and wants to expand its power into the region."

The head of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, General John Campbell, warned last week that the Islamic State is recruiting in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

"Potentially, there are people who are disgruntled with the Taliban. They haven't seen [Taliban commander] Mullah Omar in years, or they want to go a different way," Campbell said in an interview with the U.S. Army Times, adding that makes them vulnerable to IS recruitment.

U.S. officials had identified the head of the Syrian affiliate of the Pakistani Khorasan group as Muhsin al-Fadhli, reportedly killed in U.S. strikes. He was a Kuwaiti who spent time in Iran and Afghanistan and had long been identified as a significant figure in al-Qaida.