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Afghan Officials Report Arrest of Scores of Taleban Fighters


Afghanistan is reporting the arrest of scores of suspected Taleban fighters and other insurgents in the country's violence-racked southeast. The move follows a series of unusually bold attacks in the region.

Joint raids by Afghan and U.S. forces have netted at least 40 suspected militants in Afghanistan's Paktika province.

Foreign ministry spokesman Omar Samad says local residents and police helped in the arrests. Mr. Samad could not confirm the exact number of those in custody but said some are suspected of being involved in attacks over the past week.

"They are thought to be, in one way or another, associated with the remnants of Taleban and al-Qaida, which nowadays also includes the Hekmatyar group, but it's still at the very initial stages, and further investigations are needed to clarify the situation," he said.

The Hekmatyar group refers to forces loyal to Pashtun warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. He is a former commander in the Afghan-Soviet war who fled the country after the rise of the Taleban, Afghanistan's former hardline Islamist rulers.

Since the Taleban's fall, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar is thought to have forged an alliance with the leaders of the ousted regime to oppose the new Afghan transitional government. A U.S.-led international force ousted the Taleban and still is in Afghanistan searching for its leaders and the heads of al-Qaida.

Mr. Samad said those in custody are being questioned to determine whether they are involved in the insurgent movements.

The arrests in Paktika follow a series of devastating attacks in the province, including several assaults on local police. In one incident, militants took over a police station for several hours before fleeing into the mountains.

Similar attacks on Afghan police and soldiers have taken place in neighboring provinces, with an attack in Zabul province reported to have killed at least five government soldiers on Saturday.

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