- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 14, 2004

KABUL, Afghanistan — Information from a man caught in a vehicle loaded with explosives led to the arrests of two senior Taliban military commanders, including a former security chief of the hard-line regime’s leader, Mullah Omar, an official said yesterday.

Mullah Naqvi and Mullah Qayum were active in the ousted regime’s insurgency and were believed responsible for a series of terror attacks in southern Afghanistan, said Abdullah Laghmani, the intelligence chief in Kandahar province.

Both men were on “most-wanted” lists, Mr. Laghmani said. During the Taliban’s rule, Mullah Naqvi was in charge of security for Mullah Omar’s home in Kandahar city, and Mullah Qayum served as a military commander in the province, Mr. Laghmani said.

It was not clear if either man might have information on the whereabouts of Mullah Omar, who vanished with Osama bin Laden as U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban government in late 2001.

U.S. Embassy officials had no comment on the arrests, and there was no word on whether the men might be handed over to U.S. officials for questioning.

Mr. Laghmani said Mullah Naqvi and Mullah Qayumwere caught Monday night at a home in Kandahar city. Another suspect apprehended in the city earlier in the day, driving a vehicle containing 460 pounds of explosives, purportedly intended for Taliban fighters, led Afghan security forces to the two commanders.

“These two commanders were involved in every terrorist activity in Kandahar province against the government and coalition forces,” Mr. Laghmani said.

He said “important documents” had been seized from the two, which gave the names of other rebel commanders in the province.

Taliban-led rebels remain active in the south and east of Afghanistan, frequently launching attacks on government and coalition troops.

In an effort at reconciliation, President Hamid Karzai has offered amnesty to Taliban fighters willing to lay down their arms, a move that could stabilize the country and allow foreign troops to pull back.

Officials in Kabul said yesterday that a Turkish engineer and two Afghans were apparently kidnapped yesterday in eastern Afghanistan.

A car the men used to travel daily from Jalalabad to a road-construction project in Kunar province’s Chawki district was found abandoned, said Abdul Bari, director of the Interior Ministry’s anti-terrorism division.

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