x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Afghans detain suspected insurgents on Saudi-bound plane

Afghan and international forces detain four suspected insurgents at Kabul airport after ordering the commercial aircraft on which they were flying to return to Afghanistan.

KABUL // Afghan and international forces detained four suspected insurgents at Kabul airport after ordering the commercial aircraft on which they were flying to return to Afghanistan, the Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) has said.

The plane, which had taken off for Saudi Arabia, was called back to Kabul airport on Monday after several intelligence tip-offs that a senior member of an insurgent group was on board, ISAF said.

An ISAF spokesman said foreign troops were involved in the operation, but only Afghan security forces had boarded the plane to arrest the men, who were unarmed and identified themselves to officials.

One of the men was part of the al Qa'eda -linked Haqqani network, one of the three main insurgent groups fighting Afghan and foreign forces, ISAF said, and was wanted in conjunction with attacks against government and international troops.

All four men had been travelling together, ISAF said. The other three - also described as suspected insurgents - were also detained. One was the subject of an Afghan arrest warrant.

The ISAF spokesman did not know what airline was operating the flight, but Afghanistan has one national carrier and several private operators, some of which provide direct flights to Saudi Arabia. Afghan officials were not immediately available for comment.

Afghan and international troops have stepped up their campaign of killing and detaining insurgents in recent months, but Monday's arrests appeared to be the first of their kind on a plane at Kabul airport.

ISAF says it has killed around 1,300 insurgent leaders and mid-level fighters in the past three months and has arrested more than 2,000.