KABUL: A French woman fighting for the militant Islamic State group in Afghanistan has been detained, Afghan officials said on Friday, amid fears that IS militants fleeing Syria and Iraq are finding their way to the country.

The woman was captured during a military operation in the northern province of Jowzjan — an IS stronghold — on Thursday night, several officials said.

It has been reported that French and Algerian fighters, some arriving from Syria, had joined the group’s Afghan franchise in the restive province.

“In a joint operation between NDS and Afghan special forces, five Afghan men and a French woman fighting for IS were arrested in Darzab district of Jowzjan,” the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s spy agency, said in a statement.

The Defence Ministry confirmed that a “French insurgent woman was among those detained”. Six IS fighters were also killed, it said.

Afghan officials did not clarify how they identified the woman’s nationality. One official described her as “French speaking”. They provided no further details about the woman or where she had come from.

Provincial police chief Faqir Mohammad Jawzjani said that US forces were also involved in Thursday’s operation.

“Four Daesh fighters were killed and one French woman... was also detained,” Jawzjani said, using the Arabic acronym for IS.

He added that two other French IS fighters were killed in the province recently.

Jawzjani said Afghan and US forces took the woman into custody — which was confirmed by the provincial governor’s spokesman Reza Ghafoori. Ghafoori said two Uzbek fighters had also been detained.Afghan and US special forces have ramped up air strikes and ground offensives against IS fighters in Jowzjan in recent months, which the Americans say have “disrupted” the group’s capacity to use foreign fighters.

In January, Afghan forces caught the group’s “head facilitator of foreign forces”. Two months later, his two successors were killed in a US air strike, a Resolute Support statement on Thursday said.

US and Afghan forces conducted a “nighttime raid” on Thursday in Mughul village in Darzab, the statement added. It made no mention of a French female fighter.

Most of the fighters in Jowzjan were “Pakistani Pashtun”, General John Nicholson, commander of US and Nato forces in Afghanistan, said in the statement.

Published in Dawn, March 24th, 2018

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