Afghans arrest Taliban leader, army turncoat

Associated Press
An Afghan National Army soldier along with U.S soldiers carry a wounded U.S soldier following an attack to a medevac helicopter from the U.S. Army's Task Force Lift "Dust Off", Charlie Company 1-52 on the outskirts of Kandahar, Afghanistan, Saturday, July 30, 2011. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool)
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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — A senior Defense Ministry official who allegedly leaked secrets that helped the Taliban stage suicide attacks in Kabul has been arrested by the Afghan Intelligence Service — one of three high profile arrests announced Saturday by the agency.

A spokesman said also arrested were a senior Taliban official accused of leading an insurgent propaganda campaign in eastern Afghanistan, and an insurgent who allegedly helped organize an April 1 attack against the U.N. headquarters in the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif that killed 11 people, including seven foreign U.N. employees.

Infiltration has become a serious concern for Afghan forces and the U.S.-led military alliance that is training them — often on bases they share. The Taliban have said the practice has become one of their main strategies in their war against the U.S.-led coalition and President Hamid Karzai's government.

Several attacks involving bombers wearing military uniforms have targeted foreign troops as well as official Afghan institutions, including an April suicide bombing by an attacker wearing an army uniform that killed three people at the Defense Ministry.

The intelligence service recently arrested Gul Mohammad, an army officer who was serving at the Defense Ministry headquarters in Kabul, the agency's spokesman Lutifullah Mashal said at a news conference.

Mohammad, who was an eight-year veteran of the army, was in charge of three checkpoints in the capital — one near NATO headquarters and the presidential palace, and two others on a road where the coalition has many bases and training facilities.

Mashal said insurgents offered Mohammad 200,000 Pakistanis rupees ($2,300) to help organize suicide attacks in Kabul. Many of the suicide bombers operating inside Afghanistan are thought to be trained in Pakistan's lawless tribal regions, which border provinces such as Nuristan and Nangarhar.

Mashal did not give Mohammad's rank or provide any other details about his role at the ministry, but said he was from the Taliban-controlled Waygal district in northeastern Nuristan province. Mashal said Mohammad is also thought to have supplied insurgents in the area with information on Afghan army troop movements.

He said Maulvi Rahimullah, who was allegedly responsible for the media, publication department and Internet services for a Taliban shura, or council, based in Peshawar, Pakistan, had been detained. Rahimullah, who was from the Pachir Wagam district of eastern Nangarhar province, also was a member of that shura, Mashal said.

According to Mashal, he also went by the alias Azrat Bilal and was reportedly the Taliban deputy shadow governor of Nangarhar in charge of recruiting in four eastern Afghan provinces. The third man arrested was identified as a suspected weapons supplier named Maulvi Sabor who was arrested in Balkh province.

Mashal said all the arrests occurred in areas where the international military coalition has transferred responsibility for security to Afghan forces. Two provinces and five provincial capitals were turned over to government forces earlier this month, part of a gradual handover of responsibility that will lead to full Afghan control by the end of 2014, when foreign combat troops are to leave the country.

"This is a good achievement for Afghan forces in these area, and a loss for the enemies who are trying to attack in those places where the transition of forces is taking place," Mashal said.

But violence continued around the country unabated.

Insurgents killed seven Afghan soldiers and a translator alongside two NATO service members in a bombing and ambush Friday in eastern Paktia province, according to the deputy provincial governor Abdul Rahman Mangal. He said the group was on patrol in the Zurmat district.

Police acting on tips in Kunar province also intercepted six would-be suicide bombers who local residents said were on their way to conduct an attack in the provincial capital of Asadabad, said Wasifullah Wasify. The provincial spokesman said one attacker blew himself up outside the vehicle on a road in Khas Kunar district, injuring one policeman. Police shot and killed two attackers and arrested two others, but one escaped, he said.

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