KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan security forces on Tuesday arrested a member of the deadly Haqqani network and three other associates after ordering the plane flying him to Saudi Arabia to return to the capital, NATO said.
Coalition forces also arrested a senior Taliban leader in charge of the Marjah district in Helmand province, a statement said. The southern poppy-producing hub was wrested from Taliban control in February but there are still pockets of insurgent resistance. He was the third Taliban leader to be arrested in one day.
In Kabul, NATO said that Afghan security officials managed to track down a suspected gun smuggler who was part of the Haqqani network, an Al Qaeda-linked group that controls much of eastern Afghanistan. But by the time they got to Kabul airport, the commercial airliner he was on had taken off. So the officials ordered it to return.
They also arrested three other suspects who were onboard, NATO said.
In Helmand, NATO said the senior Taliban leader that was arrested was in charge of about 300 fighters in the town of Musa Qala. It did not name the leader but said "he reportedly was appointed the leader of all Taliban forces in and around Marjah and was responsible for the defense of the area prior to the coalition offensive."
In other violence, NATO reported the deaths of two service members. It said one died Monday following an insurgent attack in the east. The second was killed in a bomb attack Tuesday in the south. No other details were released about the two deaths, which raised to 19 the number of coalition service members killed so far this month in Afghanistan.
In the eastern province of Paktia, militants killed the chief of Shewak district by blowing up his car with a roadside bomb, said provincial spokesman Rohullah Samon.
Afghan and coalition forces are pressuring insurgent strongholds across the east and the south in an effort to regain the momentum in the war.
NATO, meanwhile, also announced Tuesday the capture of a senior Taliban leader responsible for attacks in the Dand and Panjwai districts of Kandahar province, as well as another Taliban member linked to multiple bombings in the provincial capital.
In Zabul province in southeast Afghanistan, Afghan and coalition forces captured a Taliban insurgent responsible for moving weapons and coordinating attacks in the Shahjoy district. As the joint force approached a remote compound in the district, someone threw a bag of bomb-making materials out a window. After a search, the Taliban insurgent and three of his associates were detained, the statement said.