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US Troops Hold Afghan Suspected of Involvement in Suicide Attacks - 2004-04-05

U.S. military officials in Afghanistan say they are holding a senior Afghan commander suspected of involvement in suicide bomb attacks against international peacekeeping forces.

Speaking at a news conference in Kabul, U.S. military spokesman Lieutenant Colonel Bryan Hilferty identified the detained Afghan as Commander Amanullah.

He said U.S. and Afghan forces arrested the man and his bodyguard last Wednesday in central Wardak Province.

The U.S. spokesman says Commander Amanullah was heading the Hezb-I-Islami militant faction in the area. He says the man is suspected of helping organize two suicide bomb attacks that killed one Canadian and one British soldier last January in Kabul.

"We believe he is linked to suicide and other bombing attacks here in Kabul," he said. "In his compound we found grenades, rocket-propelled grenades, a silenced pistol, a machine gun, materials for making improvised explosive devices, as well as suspicious documents."

He says Mr. Amanullah is suspected of protecting the men who carried out the suicide bombings against international forces providing security in the Afghan capital. Without giving more details, Colonel Hilferty said the Afghan commander is also suspected of harboring militant leaders opposed to the presence of foreign troops in the country.

Commander Amanullah is said to be a senior ally of renegade Afghan leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar. U.S. military and Afghan officials accuse Mr. Hekmatyar of working alongside the Taleban and the al Qaida terror network to destabilize the Afghan government.

The United States is leading a separate multi-national anti-terrorism force hunting Taleban and al Qaida fugitives in Afghanistan.

Mr. Hekmatyar's whereabouts are not known. But in his recent statements, the fundamentalist Afghan warlord has denied allegations that he is cooperating with anti-government forces in Afghanistan.