KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (Reuters) – Afghan authorities have captured a Taliban regional commander wanted for the assassination of a leading anti-militant cleric last month, police said on Tuesday.
Haji Atiqullah was wounded and captured during a shootout in the southern city of Kandahar on Monday night after attempting to assassinate a local militia commander, a senior police officer in the city said.
Atiqullah, who was in charge of foreign relations in Kandahar during the Taliban”s rule, was wanted for the assassination of Mawlavi Abdullah Fayaz, a prominent critic of the Taliban shot dead last month by gunmen riding on a motorcycle.
Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi confirmed the arrest and said Atiqullah had been an important commander in Kandahar.
A local militia commander named Mandoi was wounded along with a bodyguard in the attack on Monday night in which Atiqullah opened fire on them from a motorcycle, the police said.
Authorities have accused the Taliban of being behind a suicide bombing of a mosque in Kandahar during a memorial service for Fayaz on June 1 which killed 20 people.
The Taliban have denied involvement in the attack, part of a surge in militant violence seen in the run-up to parliamentary elections due in September.
Earlier on Tuesday, the U.S. military said U.S. and Afghan forces had killed two militants and detained 12 others after a clash north of Kandahar on Sunday.
On Monday, a suicide bomber rammed a car packed with explosives into a U.S. military vehicle near the city, killing himself and wounding four American soldiers, one seriously.
Goverment spokesman Jawed Ludin told a news briefing the attack on the Americans, which was claimed by the Taliban, was under investigation. He said the head of the suicide attacker had been found and from his appearance, he may have been a foreigner.
About 150 insurgents have been killed in violence this year, according to U.S. and Afghan government figures. Dozens of government security men have also died in the fighting, as well as 13 U.S. soldiers since March.
U.S.-led forces have been hunting the Taliban and their mainly foreign al Qaeda allies since overthrowing the Taliban in 2001 for sheltering al Qaeda leaders, including Osama bin Laden, responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States