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Afghan officials detain German over Taliban ties

March 1, 2018

A German citizen thought to be a military advisor to the Taliban in Helmand province has been detained by Afghan officials. The man appears to be part of the Taliban's elite "Red Unit."

Taliban fighter holding gun
An Afghan Taliban fighterImage: Getty Images/AFP/N. Shirzada

Police in Helmand province in Afghanistan have arrested a German national as well as three Afghan Taliban fighters in the Gereshk district of Helmand province.

The German man was described as having "a long beard, wearing a black turban," according to a spokesman for the local government.

Read more: More than 10,000 civilian casualties in 2017, says UN

Gereshk police chief Ismail Khplwak told the AFP news agency that the man was the "military advisor of Mullah Nasir," the now deceased commander of the Taliban's elite "Red Unit" in Helmand.

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There has been no confirmation from the German authorities yet.

'Red Unit' behind deadly attacks

The "Red Unit," often described as the Taliban's special forces, is responsible for several deadly attacks on civilians, Afghan police and the armed forces.

Read more: Is US pressure pushing Taliban toward peace?

At the beginning of December, the US announced that Nasir, also known as Mullah Shah Wali, or Haji Nasir, had been killed by Afghan forces. Although the NATO combat mission ended in late December 2014, US and other NATO forces remain in Afghanistan to train local forces and conduct operations against al-Qaeda.

Men seen inspecting scene of attacks in Helmand province, Afghanistan
Afghanistan has seen a string of deadly attacks this year. This picture shows the site of an attack in Helmand on February 24Image: picture-alliance/abaca/A. Hadi Roshan

Read more: Opinion: Peace proposal with Taliban puts West in a fix

While the conflicts in Syria and Iraq have attracted a large number of fighters from Europe, it is rare for Europeans to get involved with insurgents in Afghanistan. Most foreign fighters in Afghanistan hail from Pakistan, Chechnya and Uzbekistan.

The southern province of Helmand, which is known for its lucrative opium production, remains a Taliban stronghold. The Islamist group controls 10 of the province's 14 districts.

Given the Taliban's resilience, which has led to astring of attacks in recent weeks, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani recently proposed a contentious peace deal "without preconditions."

Afghan president calls on Taliban to join in peace talks

ng/kms (AFP, dpa, Reuters)

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