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US Troops Arrest Dozens of Suspected Insurgents in Afghanistan - 2004-02-16

U.S. military officials in Afghanistan say they have detained several dozen suspected insurgents, including two mid-level members of the ousted Taleban government, in a raid in the south of the country.

A U.S. military spokesman said the suspects were detained Sunday during a search operation in the southern province of Helmand. The U.S. military believes the detainees have been involved in some of the recent violence in the region.

Giving details of the operation at a news conference in Kabul Monday, Lieutenant-Colonel Bryan Hilferty said the operation did not result in any casualties.

"We placed under control about 40 personnel," he said. "Two of them we have identified now as we believe mid-level Taleban leaders. The other ones who we are screening, if they turn out just to be regular people, we will let them go back in their village. No shots were fired and no one was injured."

The spokesman said the raid was part of an ongoing anti-terror operation by U.S.-led forces in the area, involving several-thousand troops.

"In Operation Mountain Blizzard, launched in early January, coalition forces have succeeded in finding and destroying scores of weapons caches, placing under control numerous terrorists and other enemies of Afghanistan, and establishing the conditions for security and stability," added Lieutenant-Colonel Hilferty.

The south and southeast of Afghanistan have seen frequent violent attacks against government targets and U.S.-led coalition forces in recent months. The region used to be a stronghold of the ousted Taleban government, which is now waging a low-level guerilla war with the help of the al-Qaida terror network.

The militants have targeted government and U.S.-led foreign troops as well as aid workers, in an apparent attempt to discourage the reconstruction of Afghanistan.