NATO and Afghan forces captured a man they believe took part in a bomb attack that killed two prominent Afghan police officials and wounded the German general who commands troops in northern Afghanistan, the coalition said Wednesday.
A night raid Monday carried out by Afghan forces under NATO direction in the northern province of Balkh resulted in the arrest of the man and several others, the coalition said. NATO said the man belonged to the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, a militant movement operating in northern Afghanistan.
"Recent reporting indicated he had been in direct contact with Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan leadership in Pakistan, providing them with specific reports on the damage effects," the coalition said.
NATO said no shots were fired in the operation and that the man freely identified himself to Afghan forces.
The arrests stem from the Saturday bomb attack on the governor's complex in Takhar province during a meeting of high-level Afghan officials and NATO officials. The bombing killed six, including two German soldiers, the provincial police chief and Gen. Daud Daud, a well known regional police commander in northern Afghanistan.
Daud was a former deputy interior minister for counternarcotics and a former bodyguard of Ahmad Shah Massoud, the charismatic Tajik leader who commanded the Northern Alliance and died in an al-Qaida suicide bombing two days before the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that provoked the U.S. invasion.
German Gen. Markus Kneip, the NATO force's commander for northern Afghanistan, was among those wounded in the attack.
The Taliban initially claimed responsibility for the attack, though the NATO statement Tuesday implied the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan coordinated the bombing. The group, formed in 1991, originally aiming to set up an Islamic state in Uzbekistan, which neighbors Afghanistan. Later, it expanded its goal to seeking an Islamic nation all across Central Asia. Aligning itself with al-Qaida, it has been most active in the northern provinces of Afghanistan.
France said Wednesday that a French soldier was killed in a clash with insurgents in northeastern Afghanistan. Since France deployed troops in Afghaniztan in 2001, 59 have been killed.
The recent violence comes as the Taliban begins its spring offensive, with stepped up roadside bombings and suicide attacks, as well as insurgent assaults on mountain or rural outposts.
The effectiveness of the Taliban campaign could affect the size of President Barack Obama's planned drawdown of U.S. troops in July. NATO is to hand over control of security in the country to Afghans by 2014.
Speaking from Kabul, Australian Army Maj. Gen. Michael Krause told Pentagon reporters in Washington Wednesday that intelligence suggests militants have shortages of weapons and explosives.
"We are picking up disenchantment and disillusionment" among "key parts of the insurgency," Krause said. "They've grabbed a lot of headlines, but they've grabbed nothing of operational significance."
Among the tactics used by the Taliban and other insurgents appears to be the increased use of young suicide bombers, said Latifullah Mashal, the spokesman of the Afghan National Directorate for Security. He said Wednesday that authorities have arrested 19 boys in the last two months who had been sent from madrassas, or Islamic schools, in Pakistan to blow themselves up.
Terror groups use the young because they remain less likely to be patted down by security, and recruiting suicide attackers has gotten more difficult, Mashal said.
"Terrorists are using children because they are ignorant, they do not know what they are doing," Mashal said. "They are told that with this (prayer) or words from Islam that you hang around your body _ you will survive, but only your enemy will be killed."
Taliban forces also may target seven areas set to be handed over to Afghan security control in July, Mashal said. Those areas include Bamiyan and Panjshir provinces, the cities of Lashkar Gah, Herat, Mazer-e-Sharif and Mehterlam, and nearly all of Kabul province.
Also Wednesday, NATO announced the deaths of two service members, both killed in insurgent attacks in eastern Afghanistan. NATO said in a statement that one attack occurred Tuesday, while the other occurred Wednesday, but offered no other details.
Last month, 56 NATO service members were killed in combat, including at least 31 Americans. The U.S. military also said Wednesday that the recent death of three American troops in a bomb attack in eastern Afghanistan happened Sunday, and not Saturday as it initially reported.
Associated Press writer Amir Shah contributed to this report. Additional reporting by Associated Press writer Pauline Jelinek in Washington.
Jon Gambrell can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jongambrellAP.