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Coalition Forces Detain al-Qaida Suspects in Afghanistan


U.S.-led coalition forces in Afghanistan say they have detained four suspected al-Qaida operatives in the eastern part of the country.

A U.S. military statement said the arrests were made during an operation early Saturday in Sal Kalay, a village in Khost province.

A coalition spokesman said U.S.-led troops confiscated two assault rifles and a briefcase full of extremist documents during the operation.

Meanwhile, Afghan police say gunmen in northern Balkh province have killed at least two Afghan policemen deployed to protect archeological sites from looters.

Officials said Saturday coalition forces and Afghan police killed 18 suspected Taleban militants earlier this week. An interior ministry spokesman said 4 militants were killed in a northern province. Another 14 were killed in southern Afghanistan.

In the southern regions, NATO peacekeeping troops will take over security command from the U.S.-led coalition on Monday.

A NATO spokesman says this will be the toughest mission the alliance has ever taken on.

The spokesman says the new operation is a critical test for the 57-year-old military alliance.

In southern Afghanistan, NATO combat forces will nearly double to around eight thousand mostly British, Dutch and Canadian troops. U.S. forces will continue to provide combat support and will also continue to hunt for Osama bin Laden.

The southern provinces have seen some of the worst fighting in recent months since the Taleban regime was ousted in 2001.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.