07 May 09 -- German special forces in northern Afghanistan have captured a high-ranking Taliban leader suspected of involvement in attacks on German soldiers, the website of news magazine Der Spiegel reported on Thursday.
The man, identified as Abd al-Racik, is thought to have close ties to the Taliban in Pakistan and the drug mafia. Believed to be the Taliban commander in the province of Badakshan in northeastern Afghanistan, al-Racik is suspected of involvement in a series of attacks on German soldiers and Afghan security forces, the magazine said.
The Islamist leader was under surveillance by the German army for months and was originally meant to be captured in an operation on Wednesday night. But the man was able to flee into the mountains after his aides recognised the helicopters of the German army flying over the region. That sparked an hours-long chase through the mountains before al-Racik was caught and brought to Kabul.
“German and Afghans captured the high-ranking Taliban leader after a chase,” the magazine quoted the Afghan police chief of Badakshan as saying. Investigators from the German army and intelligence services are said to have handed over a dossier on al-Racik to state prosecutors in the Afghan capital.
Germany’s elite KSK forces, comparable to the US Army’s Special Forces, are working in tandem with the regular military in Afghanistan under the mandate of the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF). Germany has more than 3,500 troops in Afghanistan.
The capture of the Taliban leader comes on the same day that the German army held a memorial service for a 21-year-old soldier who was killed in a shooting after his convoy was ambushed near the northern Afghan city of Kunduz.
German forces have come under increasing attack from Taliban insurgents in recent weeks.
Defence Minister Franz-Josef Jung on Thursday said Germany remained committed to the Afghanistan mission despite the rising violence.
“Those who are thinking of pulling out would just hand Afghanistan into the hands of the Taliban,” Jung said during the memorial service.
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