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Pakistan will deport former Taliban ambassador

Former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, left, often gave briefings to journalists.  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- The former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan will be deported to Afghanistan and turned over to the United States on Saturday, U.S. and Pakistani officials told CNN Friday.

U.S. officials confirmed that Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef -- who has been questioned in recent days by Pakistani and U.S. intelligence officials on the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden and Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar -- would be deported back to Afghanistan and taken into custody by the United States.

Pakistani officials said they understood Zaeef would likely end up at the U.S. naval base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. U.S. officials said they could not confirm where the Taliban figure would be held or what charges he might face.

The United States is constructing a facility at Guantanamo to house some of the more than 200 al Qaeda and Taliban members in U.S. custody.

Pakistan has detained Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the former Taliban ambassador, and is expected to deport him. CNN's Tom Mintier reports (January 4)

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Zaeef was arrested Thursday by Pakistani intelligence officials, his secretary said. He is being held by Pakistani authorities, his family said Friday.

There was no immediate comment from Zaeef's family on his deportation. Family members had said they were hiring an attorney to represent him.

Zaeef had applied to become a refugee to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees, but that request was denied.

He then applied to Pakistan for political asylum. That request was turned down and Pakistani authorities picked him up at his Islamabad home. Pakistani sources told CNN that Zaeef was not arrested but was taken into custody to prevent him from going into hiding.

Zaeef, 34, was taken to Peshawar, near Pakistan's border with Afghanistan, and was being held in what was called protective custody. It was unclear what would happen to Zaeef once he is handed over to officials of the new interim government of Afghanistan.

There were reports that Zaeef was being questioned by U.S. and Pakistani officials, but Pakistani officials told CNN he was not being questioned by anyone.

Zaeef was detained by men his secretary described as Pakistani intelligence agents, who came to his house in Islamabad on Thursday around 1 p.m. local time and left a short time later with the former ambassador.

The secretary did not know where Zaeef had been taken or why.

Family members said they were hiring an attorney to represent him. Asked if Zaeef had also been questioned by U.S. officials, members of Zaeef's family said they were not being told anything.

Until Pakistan closed the Taliban embassy in Islamabad in November, Zaeef was the Taliban's primary spokesman, giving frequent briefings for journalists.

Pakistan was one of three countries to ever recognize the Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate government and it was the last to cut its diplomatic ties to the regime in November.

-- CNN National Security Correspondent David Ensor contributed to this report.




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