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Three Arrested in Connection with Afghan Terrorist Plot - 2003-01-30

U.S. and Afghan forces arrest three men in Kabul who were allegedly planning to blow up American and other international facilities in the capital.

A spokesman for the U.S. military in Afghanistan, Roger King, says the men were found with explosives in their residence in Kabul. He told reporters at the Bagram Air Base that Afghan authorities backed by U.S. troops conducted the pre-dawn operation.

"The three that were picked up in Kabul are currently in the custody of the Afghan authorities because they took the lead in the operation, assisted with Special Forces and U.S. Army intelligence people and United States Marines from the embassy," he explained.

Colonel King says the authorities are trying to discover the identities of the suspects. He says they were found with one bomb that could be easily carried.

"We're talking about a single bomb… that was assessed as probably being deadly if you were within 100 feet of it when it went off," he said.

Colonel King says the trio was plotting to bomb a U.S. or coalition facility in the Afghan capital.

The detainees are reportedly linked to the radical Hezb-e-Islami movement of former Afghan prime minister, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

The renegade warlord has declared a holy war against U.S. forces and their Afghan allies. Mr. Hekmatyar is suspected of trying to consolidate the remnants of al-Qaida operatives and the ousted Taleban into a fighting force.

International and U.S. security forces in Kabul and elsewhere in Afghanistan have come under grenade attacks in recent months.

In December, two U.S. soldiers were slightly injured when unknown attackers threw grenades at their vehicle in the center of Kabul. Few days later, a suicide bomber blew himself up in an attack on international peacekeepers in the city. That attack killed two Afghan staff members and injured two French aid workers.

Earlier this week, U.S. and coalition forces launched a massive bombing campaign against a group of anti-government fighters in the mountains of southeastern Afghanistan. At least 18 rebels were killed.

United States military officials believe the militants were linked to Mr. Hekmatyar.

Hundreds of U.S. and Afghan forces are searching the area for survivors. The emergence of an estimated 80 rebels indicates that stability in Afghanistan is still under serious threat.