Pakistan releases senior Taleban commander: Official

ISLAMABAD (AFP) - Pakistan on Saturday released its most senior Afghan Taleban detainee, Abdul Ghani Baradar, a senior official of the Interior Ministry told AFP, in a move Kabul hopes will encourage peace talks with the insurgents.

"Yes Baradar has been released," Mr Omar Hamid, a spokesman for Interior Ministry, told AFP, without elaborating.

Abdul Ghani Baradar, a one-time military chief often described as the insurgents' former second-in-command, was the most high-profile detained Taleban commander in Pakistan.

Pakistan's Foreign Ministry on Friday said that Baradar's release will facilitate Afghanistan's reconciliation process with the Taleban as a Nato combat mission there winds down.

"In order to further facilitate the Afghan reconciliation process, the detained Taleban leader, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, would be released tomorrow (Saturday)," the Foreign Ministry had said in a statement.

The Afghan government has long demanded that Islamabad free Baradar, whose arrest in January 2010 saw Pakistan accused of sabotaging initiatives to bring peace in war-torn Afghanistan.

He was arrested in Pakistan's southern port city of Karachi, reportedly in a secret raid by Central Intelligence Agency and Pakistani agents, in an operation that was described as a huge blow to the Taleban, who ruled Afghanistan until a United States-led invasion in 2001.

At the time of his arrest Baradar was reported to have been the Taleban's second-in-command, the right hand man of the Afghan Taleban's supreme commander Mullah Omar.

He was the most senior member of the Taleban held after US-led troops invaded Afghanistan in the wake of the 9/11 attacks, bringing down the Islamist regime.