HERAT -- National Directorate of Security (NDS) personnel in Herat province have arrested a group of Taliban members involved in recent targeted killings and an attack on the US consulate in Herat city eight years ago.
Security officials presented 11 members of the group to the media during a press conference on February 2 at the NDS compound in Herat. The detainees were arrested at the end of January.
These Taliban militants had been involved in 11 terrorist attacks against security forces and civilians in Herat city in recent months and planned to carry out six more attacks in the coming days, said Herat Governor Sayed Wahid Qatali.
"This 11-member group was directly under the command of the Taliban's intelligence unit and received their orders from Taliban commanders," he said. "The aim of this terrorist group was to create fear and terror among people and to assassinate security forces and civilians."
Qatali told reporters that the group had also planned the attack on the US consulate in Herat city eight years ago.
"One of the horrific attacks by this group dates back a few years to the attack on the US consulate in Herat that terrified the people of the city," he said.
Taliban militants attacked the US consulate in Herat on September 13, 2013, using a car bomb and eight suicide attackers. The attack killed at least eight consulate security guards and one Afghan policeman, and injured 20 others, including civilians.
NDS forces recovered magnetic bombs, pistols equipped with silencers, grenades and other weapons and ammunition from the terrorist group.
"This group had carried out two terrorist attacks in the No. 1 area of Herat city, killed two policemen in the eastern part of the city, killed the driver of the head of the criminal branch in Herat and intended to assassinate three female police officers," Qatali said.
"Support from some neighbouring countries to this terrorist group cannot be ruled out," Qatali said. "Unfortunately, intelligence from neighbouring countries is involved in most terrorist attacks across the country, especially in Herat."
Some of the detainees admitted to the media that they were members of the Taliban and were sent to Herat city by the Taliban's chief of intelligence.
"Mawlawi Abdul Karim, the Taliban's chief of intelligence for Herat province, introduced me to Mirwais Mubarez, who is in charge of attacks in Herat city," said Safiullah, one of the detainees.
"I conducted a number of attacks under Mubarez's orders," he said.
"I carried out two attacks in Herat city and wanted to attach a bomb to the vehicle of chief of police for the 2nd district and throw a grenade at it," he said. "I could not attach the bomb but threw the grenade."
"We also fired at a police [vehicle] in Speena Ada area of Herat before fleeing the area," he said. "My brother, another member of the group, was also involved in several attacks on police and government employees in Herat city."
"My brother and I fled Herat city, after killing a relative of ours, to areas under Taliban influence in Shindand district," he said, noting that they received training from the Taliban on how to carry out attacks.
Jalaluddin, another member of the Taliban group, admitted to being involved in several attacks on security forces in Herat city.
"I carried out an attack on area No. 1 in Herat city and another on the road in Siawoshan village, Guzara district," he said. "And the third attack was in Darwaz-e-Kandahar in Herat city."
"We would receive money from the Taliban's chief of intelligence for each attack on security forces and government employees," he said.
'Their only logic is suicide and killing'
The Afghan government and international allies blame the Taliban for the recent increase in targeted assassinations and magnetic bomb attacks in big cities.
The Taliban consistently have denied involvement.
Afghan authorities have made several arrests in connection with the assassinations of journalists and civil society activists and with the attacks on security forces and government employees.
All of the detainees are members of the Taliban, they say.
The Taliban have escalated violence and targeted attacks to gain more leverage in peace negotiations with the Afghan government taking place in Doha, Qatar, said Mohammad Akram Ahadi, a civil society activist in Herat city.
"Although the Taliban have always denied involvement in recent assassinations and bombings in various cities across the country, especially in Kabul, it has become clear to everyone that the Taliban commit these crimes," he said.
"The Taliban are not honest in their words and actions; they are lying to Afghans and the international community," he said. "They do not believe in peace and calm; their only logic is suicide and killing."
On the one hand, the Taliban are killing Afghans every day, but on the other hand, Taliban delegations travel to various countries showing a positive image to the world, said Faisal Ahmadi, a resident of Herat city.
"The Taliban are not trustworthy," he said. "The group has continued bloodshed in this country for the last two decades, massacring people under the name of 'jihad.'"
"The Taliban have never lived up to their promises, sparing no opportunity to destroy Afghanistan and kill Afghans," he said.