German citizen arrested with Taleban in Afghanistan: Officials

A man (centre) who identified himself as a German national was arrested by Afghan commandos in Helmand province on Feb 28, 2018.
A man (centre) who identified himself as a German national was arrested by Afghan commandos in Helmand province on Feb 28, 2018.PHOTO: AFP

KANDAHAR (AFP) - A German national has been arrested with the Taleban in Afghanistan's insurgency-racked Helmand province, officials told AFP late on Wednesday (Feb 28), a rare example of a European among the insurgents.

"A man with a long beard, wearing a black turban who identified himself as a German citizen and speaks German, was taken along with three other suspected Taleban on Monday night in Gereshk district of Helmand province," said Omar Zwak, the provincial governor's spokesman.

A statement from the Afghan army corps in the province confirmed that the man had been detained with other suspects in a joint operation between Afghan Special Forces and the Afghan air force.

"The German national calls himself Abdul Wadood, and he was taken to Kandahar for further investigation," the statement said.

Gereshk police chief Ismail Khplwak said the man was the "military adviser of Mullah Nasir", commander of the Taleban's elite "Red Unit" in Helmand.

If confirmed, it would be one of the few incidents in which a European has been captured fighting among the insurgents.

While foreigners do fight alongside the Taleban, citizens of Western nations are rare and most hail from Pakistan, Central Asia or Arab nations.

Photographs taken by the Afghan military show a man who looks to be in his 40s with a long reddish-brown beard speckled with grey, and wearing a black turban.

He is flanked by two members of the Afghan Special Forces dressed in combat gear and with night vision goggles pulled up onto their helmets.

The man is dressed in traditional Afghan dress, a long shirt and wide trousers, worn under a khaki military jacket.

"They were in a mine-making centre when they were detained. Weapons and ammunitions were also confiscated from them," he said, adding that several Taleban were killed in the fighting.

Perhaps the most famous Western fighter with the insurgents was John Walker Lindh, the so-called "American Taleban", who was captured in Afghanistan and was sentenced to 20 years in prison in 2002.

Late last year, sources told AFP of the presence of French fighters for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group in northern Afghanistan, as analysts suggested foreigners may be heading for the war-torn country after being driven from Syria and Iraq.

Much of opium-rich Helmand in Afghanistan's south remains controlled or contested by the Taleban who are heavily reliant on the proceeds of drug trafficking to fuel their insurgency.

The Taleban's Red Units serve as the insurgents' special forces and have carried out many fatal attacks on the Afghan army and police.