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Al-Qaeda-Linked Militants Nabbed in Afghanistan

U.S. and Afghan forces stepped up operations against a Taliban faction linked to al Qaeda, arresting several key figures in the network in raids in two eastern provinces, NATO reported Friday.

A raid Thursday in the Manduzai district of Khost province led to the capture of a deputy commander of the Haqqani group who had been supplying weapons to other members of the network, NATO said in a statement. The commander was not identified but the statement said he was among "several" Haqqani group members rounded up in the raid.

Another Haqqani weapons supplier, who was also not named, was picked up Wednesday in Paktiya province, NATO said. The statement said he had been involved in smuggling weapons, ammunition and bomb materials from Pakistan to fighters operating in Afghanistan. Special Report: Afghanistan

The U.S. considers the Haqqani group, led by Jalaluddin Haqqani and his son Sirajuddin, as one of the most dangerous Taliban groups because of its links to al Qaeda.

The group is suspected of playing a major role in the Dec. 30 bombing of a CIA base in Khost as well as a series of attacks in the capital of Kabul. It is based in the western border area of Pakistan, where U.S. forces cannot operate on the ground.

So far Pakistani authorities have resisted U.S. calls to launch a ground operation against the Haqqani network, saying its forces are overstretched fighting the Pakistani Taliban and other militants that have staged attacks inside Pakistan.

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