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Afghan forces arrest French woman fighting with IS

An Afghan security force member stands guard near the site of an attack at the Marshal Fahim military academy in Kabul, Afghanistan January 29, 2018. REUTERS/Omar Sobhani

A French woman fighting for the Islamic State armed group in Afghanistan has been detained. Officials say the woman was captured during a military operation Thursday night in an IS stronghold.

According to a statement from the National Directorate of Security (NDS), Afghanistan’s Spy Agency, the French woman was arrested during “a joint operation between NDS and Afghan Special Forces” in the northern province of Jowzjan. Five Afghan men were also detained, while six IS fighters were killed.

Afghan officials did not clarify how they identified the woman's nationality and provided no further details about her background.

Provincial police Chief Faqir Mohammad Jawzjani told reporters that US forces were also involved in Thursday's operation. He said Afghan and US forces took the woman into custody, which was confirmed by the provincial governor's spokesman Reza Ghafoori.

Disrupting IS

The capture comes amid fears that IS militants fleeing Syria and Iraq are finding their way to Afghanistan.

Afghan and US Special Forces have ramped up airstrikes 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 recruter. According to a NATO statement published on Thrusday, his two successors were killed two months later in a US airstrike.

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.

IS x Taliban

Most of the fighters in Jowzjan were "Pakistani Pashtun", General John Nicholson, commander of US and NATO forces in Afghanistan, said in the statement. Some were from the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan and there was "probably 10 percent” from different places around the world, he added.

IS has a relatively small but potent presence in Afghanistan, mainly in the eastern province of Nangarhar and more recently Jowzjan. It also has cells in Kabul, and has claimed several high-profile attacks in recent months. But it is dwarfed by the much larger Taliban, which also has Europeans in its ranks.