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U.S. hands top Taliban terrorist Mehsud to Pakistan

| Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, 9:27 p.m.
FILE - In this Oct. 4, 2009 file photo, Pakistani Taliban commander Latif Mehsud sits with fellows in Sararogha in south Waziristan in Pakistan. The U.S. military in Afghanistan has handed over three Pakistani detainees to Islamabad, including one who Pakistani intelligence officers said is a senior Taliban commander long wanted by the Pakistani government. The transfer of Mehsud, a close confidante of the former head of the Pakistani Taliban, underlines the improving relations between the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan.  (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud, File)
FILE - In this Oct. 4, 2009 file photo, Pakistani Taliban commander Latif Mehsud sits with fellows in Sararogha in south Waziristan in Pakistan. The U.S. military in Afghanistan has handed over three Pakistani detainees to Islamabad, including one who Pakistani intelligence officers said is a senior Taliban commander long wanted by the Pakistani government. The transfer of Mehsud, a close confidante of the former head of the Pakistani Taliban, underlines the improving relations between the U.S., Pakistan and Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Ishtiaq Mahsud, File)

KABUL/DERA ISMAIL KHAN, Pakistan — The United States has handed to Pakistan three prisoners, including a senior Taliban terrorist held in Afghanistan, as Washington rushes to empty its Afghan prison before losing the legal right to detain people there at year's end.

Forces captured Latif Mehsud, the former No. 2 commander in Pakistan's faction of the Taliban, in October 2013 in an operation that angered then-Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Mehsud, a Pakistani, and his two guards were secretly flown there, two senior Pakistani security officials said. The U.S. military confirmed it transferred three prisoners to Pakistan's custody Saturday, but it would not reveal their identities.

“TTP senior commander Latif Mehsud, who was arrested, was handed over to Pakistani authorities along with his guards,” one Pakistani security official said. “They reached Islamabad.”

The transfers follow a spate of U.S. drone strikes against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, or TTP, or Pakistani Taliban, and al-Qaida. On Saturday, the Pakistani military killed an al-Qaida commander accused of plotting to bomb the New York subway.

The TTP is separate but allied with the Afghan Taliban. Both work alongside al-Qaida.

The U.S. Embassy in Kabul said the three prisoners had been held at a detention center near Bagram airfield, the largest base in Afghanistan.

The facility is believed to house several dozen foreign prisoners whom America no longer will be allowed to keep in Afghanistan when the mission for the U.S.-led force there ends this month.

“We're actually just going through and returning all the third-country nationals detained in Afghanistan to resolve that issue,” an embassy spokeswoman said.

The fate of the remaining prisoners was undecided, and they could be returned to their home countries, brought into the U.S. legal system or taken to the Guantanamo Bay prison in Cuba.

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