Two recently captured top members of Afghanistan’s Haqqani network insurgent group were detained in the Persian Gulf and not in Afghanistan, as Kabul had claimed, Taliban and foreign officials said, indicating a possible shift in attitude in a region where Afghan militants have long enjoyed freedom of movement.
The detention of Anas Haqqani, the brother of the Taliban-affiliated group’s chief, and Hafiz Rashid, a military commander, was touted as an important victory for the Afghan government.
The Haqqanis, while acknowledging the Taliban leadership’s authority, operate independently. Unlike the mainstream Afghan Taliban movement, the Haqqani network is considered a terrorist organization by the U.S.
The Haqqani network was behind many of the most spectacular attacks against foreign and Afghan targets in recent years. Mr. Haqqani and Mr. Rashid are now the most senior members of the network in Afghan custody.
When Afghanistan’s intelligence agency announced their arrest, it said they were detained during an operation in the eastern Afghan province of Khost, the group’s traditional power base. New information indicates the two were picked up in a Gulf country and later taken to Afghanistan.
The Taliban said on Saturday that Mr. Haqqani and Mr. Rashid were arrested on Oct. 12 in Bahrain by U.S. forces, and taken to Qatar and the United Arab Emirates before reaching Kabul.
Several Western officials said the arrests took place in the Gulf, but they were unaware of U.S. involvement.
A senior Afghan security official confirmed the two men were arrested abroad but declined to say in which country. He said the operation was led by Afghanistan’s intelligence service, the National Directorate of Security, and that U.S. forces played no role. A U.S. Embassy spokeswoman in Kabul welcomed the arrests.
“These dangerous men are off the battlefield. We designated the Haqqani Network a Foreign Terrorist Organization in 2012. It’s a lethal network that poses a significant threat to the United States, Afghanistan, Pakistan, and our other partners and allies,,” said the spokeswoman.