KABUL -- Afghanistan's Intelligence Service says it recently detained three men from former Soviet republics suspected of terrorist activity and belonging to the banned Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU), RFE/RL's Tajik Service reports.
Intelligence Service spokesman Lutfullah Mashaal said one Kyrgyz and two Ukrainians were apprehended in two separate operations. He said all three are members of the IMU, which he said is based in northern Pakistan.
Mashaal said the two Ukrainians were detained on February 22 in northern Afghanistan. Mashaal said they entered Afghanistan via Uzbekistan's Hairaton highway and their first stop was the city of Mazar-e Sharif.
Mashaal showed photos of the Ukrainians, noting they are blond-haired. One gave his name as Ivaz, son of Iskandar, and is 27 years old. The other, identified as Ivan Nikolavevich, is 23 years old. Both posed as merchants seeking to buy raisins.
Also detained with them was an Afghan man, Nasir Ahmad, whom Mashaal identified as an IMU liaison in Afghanistan.
Mashaal said the Kyrgyz man, who was detained in Afghanistan's eastern Khost Province, is named Bakhtiyor, the son of Hotam. He assumed the name of Salimullah, son of Kalimullah.
Mashaal said the Kyrgyz man confessed to crimes while under interrogation and said he and his two brothers have spent the past 18 months in IMU camps in Pakistan's North Waziristan Province collaborating with Al-Qaeda members.
Mashaal said the detainees frequently visited northern Afghan provinces. He said U.S. drone attacks against militants in Pakistani territory forced Al-Qaeda and the IMU to seek a safe haven in northern Afghanistan, but in the past three months those forces have been defeated in a joint operation by Afghan and NATO forces.
Mashaal suggested terrorists have turned to suicide attacks in recent months as a result.