US hands over senior militant to Pakistan

ISLAMABAD - US troops in Afghanistan have handed over three Pakistani detainees to Islamabad, a statement said Sunday, and a security source said one of them was a senior Pakistani Taliban commander.

"Acting on behalf of the United States government, we transferred custody of three Pakistanis held in US custody in Afghanistan, to Pakistan," US Forces-Afghanistan said in a statement in Kabul.

"This followed consultations between the US and Pakistan and after receiving appropriate assurances", it added.

The statement did not identify the detainees. But a Pakistani security official said one of them was Latif Mehsud, a close aide to the former chief of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), Hakeemullah Mehsud.

He was brought to Islamabad on Saturday along with two other Pakistani militants captured in Afghanistan - one from the northwestern Pakistani city of Swat and another from the South Waziristan tribal region near the Afghan border.

Hakeemullah Mehsud was killed in a US drone strike in Pakistan in May last year.

The official did not disclose the names of the other two militants.

However, he said Mehsud was arrested by US forces in Afghanistan days before the death of Hakeemullah Mehsud.

Another senior local official confirmed the incident and said Latif Mehsud also served as Hakeemullah's driver, which meant he was very close to the former TTP chief.

"Latif also served as Hakeemullah's deputy for quite some time", he added.