by Farid Behbud, Chen Xin
KABUL, Sept. 24 (Xinhua) -- Afghan army, police and the NATO- led coalition forces have been stepping up pressure on the Taliban and other militant groups across the insurgency-hit country.
In the latest raids on insurgents, the Afghan forces, backed by the NATO-led coalition or International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) troops, have eliminated 28 Taliban militants within a 24- hour period ending Monday morning, according to the Afghan Interior Ministry.
"Afghan National Police (ANP), Afghan army and NDS or intelligence agency, supported by the coalition forces, launched nine joint clean-up operations in Nangarhar, Baghlan, Kandahar, Zabul, Wardak, Ghazni, Ghor, Helmand and Nimroz provinces, killing 28 armed Taliban insurgents and detaining 54 others during the past 24 hours," the ministry said in a statement providing daily operational updates to media.
They also found and seized weapons, the statement said, without saying if there were any casualties on the side of security forces.
The counter-insurgency operations, aiming to dismantle the insurgency's mid-level command structure and its supply line, have been stepped up particularly since early May this year when Taliban launched an annual rebel offensive to target security forces.
In another development, two armed Taliban militants were captured following a search operation by the ANP in Nahrin district in northern Baghlan province late Sunday.
"The raid was launched to find and arrest Taliban local commanders who have been involved in a string of attacks against government interest in Nahrin and neighboring districts," a senior police official Ghayor Andarabi told Xinhua Monday morning.
Meanwhile, another setback for the Taliban insurgent group was the loss of several local leaders and commanders in southern Helmand and eastern Kunar province on Sunday.
Two insurgents, including a Taliban commander, were killed as aircraft of the coalition forces struck a Taliban hideout in Marawara district of Kunar province 185 km east of capital Kabul on Sunday morning.
"The air raid took place at 09:00 a.m. local time Sunday in Chinar village of Marawara district killing Taliban commander Mullah Bajawar and injuring his deputy namely Hizbullah," police spokesman in the province, Shir Wali told Xinhua.
Another big blow for the militants were killing seven local leaders in another airstrike in Helmand province 555 km south of Kabul also Sunday.
"Based on tips, a warplane with the NATO-led coalition forces carried out an airstrike against a Taliban hideout in Trikh Nawar area of Naway-i- Barakzai district in the wee hours Sunday, killing seven insurgents' leaders, including Mullah Hazrat and Mullah Yasin," police spokesman Farid Ahmad Farhang told Xinhua.
He said the joint forces launched a post-strike assessment operation, detaining the Taliban shadowy governor for the district named Mullah Ahmad Mubarak, who got injured in the attack.
In addition, an Afghan and coalition security forces arrested two militants suspected of being involved in the so-called "green on blue" insider attacks in eastern Logar province on Friday, the ISAF forces confirmed in a statement on Sunday.
Up to 51 U.S. and NATO service members have lost their lives in the insider attacks since beginning this year, in the attacks when Afghan soldiers or gunmen in their uniform turned their weapons against foreign soldiers with the coalition forces.
"The detained insurgents were known insider attack - or 'green on blue' - facilitators, and planned several operations throughout Logar province. At the time of their arrest, the attack planners were in the advanced stages of preparing for a strike against a coalition base, which included the construction of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), recruitment of insurgent fighters, and the attempted infiltration of Afghan security forces. The security force also detained one suspected insurgent as a result of the operation," the ISAF statement said.
Meantime, the joint forces during launched several operations finding and defusing seven IEDs in eastern provinces within the past 24 hours, the coalition's Regional Command-East confirmed in a statement earlier Monday.
However, the Taliban insurgents, who have been waging a fierce insurgency since their regime was toppled in a U.S.-led incursion in late 2001, have responded by massive suicide attacks and IED blasts and roadside bombings in the war-ravaged country.
A civilian was killed and three other civilians were wounded when a suicide bomber attempting to launch a suicide bombing against a police unit was shot by police in Shahjoy district of southern Zabul province Sunday afternoon, police chief of the district Sardar Hotak told Xinhua on Monday.
The recent setbacks on militants came as the last of 33,000 U.S. additional forces, which were deployed to Afghanistan in early 2010 with the aim of pushing back the Taliban- led insurgency, have withdrawn from Afghanistan, the U.S. military announced on Friday.
The pull out would not affect the counter-insurgency campaign against the Taliban and other militants across the country, citing Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Gen. Zhair Azimi local Afghan media reported earlier in the day.