Nato: Afghan Taliban chief arrested

Afghan and international troops capture a Taliban district chief in a four-hour gunfight in the southern province of Helmand, says Nato.

KABUL, AFGHANISTAN // Afghan and international troops captured a Taliban district chief in a four-hour gunfight in the southern province of Helmand, Nato said today. In northern Afghanistan, four rockets slammed into a base housing about 120 South Korean construction and security personnel in Parwan province, the South Korean Foreign Ministry said today. No casualties were reported in yesterday's attack.

Nato said the Taliban leader was captured after a joint Afghan-international force surrounded a compound on Wednesday night in the remote Baghran district in the northern part of Helmand province. Taliban fighters inside the compound fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns before troops called in a precision airstrike, the Nato statement said. There were no casualties among civilians, Afghan troops or international service members, according to the alliance. However, an undisclosed number of Taliban were killed or wounded. The wounded included the Taliban district chief for Now Zad, a former insurgent stronghold to the south where US Marines have reported progress in winning over the population after a major offensive last summer.

The joint force seized dozens of automatic weapons, grenade launchers and 20 pounds of opium, the Nato statement said. Elsewhere, three Afghans were killed and another wounded by a roadside bomb today near a US outpost in Kunar province of eastern Afghanistan, a US statement said. In Seoul, the foreign ministry spokesman Kim Young-sun said no group claimed responsibility for the rocket attack on the South Korean base in the north of Afghanistan, which occurred a day before the reconstruction team planned to officially launch its mission.

In 2007, South Korea withdrew troops from Afghanistan following a hostage stand-off in which the Taliban killed two South Koreans after demanding that Seoul immediately withdraw its forces. The attacks occurred as Gen David Petraeus, widely credited with turning around the war in Iraq, prepared to assume command of the troubled US and Nato force in Afghanistan. His predecessor Gen Stanley McChrystal was fired last week over critical remarks made by him and his staff about Obama administration officials in Rolling Stone magazine.

Mr Petraeus was unanimously confirmed by the US Senate on Wednesday and flew immediately to Brussels, Belgium where he briefed Nato officials today. Violence is on the rise in Afghanistan, where June was the deadliest month of the war for the Nato-led force with at least 102 deaths among international service members. * AP