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Afghan-NATO Forces Arrest Eight Islamic Militants Possibly Linked to al-Qaida - 2004-04-19

Afghanistan's police and NATO-led peacekeeping forces have arrested eight Islamic militants with suspected links to the al-Qaida terror network and renegade Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and his Hezb-i-Islami faction.

A spokesman for the international peacekeeping force, Commander Chris Henderson said the suspects were detained in an early morning raid on a compound in central Kabul. At a news conference in the Afghan capital, he added that Afghan police and international peacekeeping forces jointly conducted the operation.

"They arrested eight people with suspected links to Hezb-i-Islami [group of] Gulbuddin Hekmatyar and al-Qaida," he said. "A thorough search of the compound also revealed documents linked to these terrorist groups, [and] a small amount of weapons. There were no injuries to either security agencies participating in the raid or to the people, the occupants of the compound."

Commander Henderson refused to discuss details of the documents. As he put it, Monday's operation has successfully removed a number of people from the streets of Kabul who could pose an imminent threat to security in Afghanistan. He said, "We believe that one of the eight people is a senior member of the Hezb-i-Islami of Gulbuddin [Hekmatyar], but because this is a matter that is under investigation by the police, we do not reveal the identities of the people that have been detained."

Mr. Hekmatyar's radical Hezb-i-Islami faction is believed to have joined hands with remnants of Afghanistan's deposed Taleban leaders and al-Qaida militants in frequent attacks on U.S.-led coalition forces and government targets in the country.

Within the past month, Afghan authorities and international peacekeeping forces have captured several suspected militants in and around Kabul, who they said were linked to Mr. Hekmatyar's extremist Islamic group.