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Reports: British Spy Agency Paid Taliban Impostor

A Taliban fighter holds anti-tank rockets in Torkham, Afghanistan, on the border with Pakistan (FILE)

British intelligence is refusing to comment on reports that it paid and courted an impostor that agents believed was a top Taliban commander but ended up being a shopkeeper. A British Foreign Office spokeswoman said Friday she could neither "confirm or deny" operational details.

News reports say the impostor, who claimed to be Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, was paid large sums of money by Britain's MI6 intelligence agents and flown around on NATO aircraft.

Reports earlier this week said the impostor posed as a Taliban official ready to negotiate a settlement to the nine-year war, and had been introduced to Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Mr. Karzai's chief of staff Mohammad Umer Daudzai told The Washington Post newspaper on Thursday that an Afghan at the meeting with Mr. Karzai discovered the fraud.

British intelligence reportedly spent months cultivating the fake Taliban official. The man was a shopkeeper from the Pakistani city of Quetta, according to Afghan intelligence.

General David Petraeus, the top U.S and NATO commander in Afghanistan, said earlier in the week there had been skepticism about the identity of the man claiming to be Mullah Mansour.

Reports of the impostor raise doubts about the state of efforts for a negotiated settlement with the Taliban to end nine years of war.

Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.