ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN — Pakistani authorities said Monday that they had captured a senior Taliban commander, critically wounding him in a shootout after he crossed into this nation from southern Afghanistan.
Mansoor Dadullah, whose more prominent brother Mullah Dadullah was killed by U.S. forces last year in Afghanistan, was captured after he and a small band of fighters encountered a contingent of Pakistani troops in the southwest province of Baluchistan, the Pakistani army said.
Army spokesman Maj. Gen. Athar Abbas said Dadullah was captured alive, but was badly wounded in a firefight between the two sides. Several soldiers were hurt as well, he said.
Dadullah's capture Monday comes amid heavy pressure on Pakistan by senior U.S. officials to go after top figures in the Taliban and Al Qaeda. On Saturday, the visiting chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Navy Adm. Michael G. Mullen, said the threat posed by militants sheltering in Pakistan's tribal belt was growing.
The government of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf acknowledges that some militants are operating in the tribal areas abutting the Afghan border, but bristles at periodic assertions by U.S. officials that figures such as Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar are hiding inside Pakistan.
It was not entirely clear whether Mansoor Dadullah, who stepped in when his brother was killed by special forces last year in Afghanistan's Helmand province, still held an important position within the Taliban. Reports circulated in December that he had been dismissed from a command role.
His brother, by contrast, was an uncontested leader and the highest-ranking Taliban commander to have been killed by allied forces since the U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001.
The capture of Mansoor Dadullah could signal greater vigilance along the Afghan border by Pakistani forces. Until recently, the Pakistani side had insisted that the blame for poor policing of the frontier lay with the Afghans.
The shootout that ended with Dadullah's capture took place not far from the town of Zhob, where another high-ranking Taliban commander, Abdullah Mahsud, was killed by Pakistani forces last summer.
Elsewhere in the volatile border region, the Pakistani ambassador to Afghanistan was reported missing and feared kidnapped in the Khyber tribal area of Pakistan. The envoy, Tariq Azizuddin, had intended to travel by road to the Afghan capital, Kabul.
There was no immediate claim of responsibility for his disappearance, but two Pakistani nationals working for the International Committee of the Red Cross vanished in the same area last week while traveling on the main highway from Peshawar to the border.
Pakistan's Foreign Ministry refused to comment on the ambassador's disappearance.
The latest violence in the border region has been fueled not only by the government's battle with Islamic insurgents, but by Pakistani parliamentary elections a week away.
A politician linked to the Awami National Party was wounded and six other people were killed when a suicide bomber attacked a gathering of tribal elders in North Waziristan, authorities said.
The Awami National Party, which is competing with Islamic parties for support among ethnic Pashtun voters, has repeatedly come under attack by suspected militants. A suicide bomber killed at least 29 people at the party's rally on Saturday in the town of Charsadda, outside Peshawar.
The wounded politician, Nisar Ali Khan, is a party leader, although he is running as an independent in next Monday's elections.
Khan and a group of tribal elders considered to be pro-government were holding a meeting when the attacker struck, local residents said. The government is urging the tribesmen to expel foreign militants from their midst.
Special correspondent Zulfiqar Ali in Peshawar contributed to this report.