WASHINGTON — Pakistani security officers who captured the Taliban's top commander in a raid in Karachi discovered only later who they had, the New York Times reported Friday.
The Times quoted a US official as saying the capture of Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar was just "a lucky accident."
"No one knew what they were getting," he told the Times.
The newspaper said Pakistani security officials, acting on a US tip, met no resistance when they raided a house in Karachi in late January, taking several men into custody.
Pakistani and US officials learned only after a careful process of identification that Baradar, who ran the Taliban's war against NATO and US forces in Afghanistan, was one of those detained, the Times said.
The account put Pakistan's motivations in a somewhat different light, suggesting it did not necessarily reflect a new determination to go against Afghan Taliban leaders in Pakistan.
The Times said Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency (ISI) limited US access to Baradar and did not permit direct questioning by the CIA for two weeks after his capture.
But some analysts said the capture of such an important Taliban leader was significant regardless of how it happened.
Seth Jones, a leading Afghan expert, said his arrest and that of other senior Taliban officials "indicates that there has been a conscious decision at least with these individuals to capture senior Afghan Taliban officials in Pakistan."
"That in and of itself marks a change from past behaviour," he told AFP.
"Whether it's part of a broader long-term pattern, that is a different question. It's way too early to assess that," said Jones, who is with RAND, a Washington think tank.