ISLAMABAD - Afghanistan's spy agency announced Saturday that it had arrested Islamic State's regional leader, along with 19 key operatives of the terrorist group.
The National Directorate of Security (NDS) identified the militant chief as Abdullah Orakzai, a Pakistani national also known as Aslam Farooqi. He was detained along with others in a "complex operation" by Afghan special forces, it added.
The NDS also released a video of the captured militants. But the statement did not say when or where the operation was conducted against Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), the regional affiliate of the Middle Eastern terrorist group. It operates in Afghanistan, Pakistan and the vicinity.
The NDS noted without elaborating that Farooqi in a "preliminary confession" had disclosed his group's close contacts with a "region intelligence agency."
The arrests came nearly two weeks after ISKP claimed credited for plotting a deadly suicide attack against a minority Sikh worship place in the Afghan capital, Kabul, which killed at least 25 worshippers.
U.S. counterterrorism forces, with the help of Afghan partners, have killed several ISKP chiefs and hundreds of terrorists linked to the group since 2015, when the central Islamic State leadership formally announced its expansion into Afghanistan.
The terrorist outfit has demonstrated resilience, however, and has plotted major terrorist attacks in the country despite getting hit hard by U.S.-backed Afghan counterterrorism forces and the rival Taliban Islamist insurgency.
The terrorist outfit began its regional operations in eastern Nangarhar province and neighboring Kunar province five years ago before expanding its footprint to several other Afghan provinces.
Both the Afghan government and the Taliban repeatedly claimed in recent months that their forces had uprooted ISKP bases in the country.
U.S. military commanders say that initially, ISKP's ranks consisted mostly of Pakistani militants who fled counterterrorism offensives in neighboring Pakistan. In subsequent years, analysts say, disgruntled Afghan Taliban members and militants from neighboring Central Asian states pledged their allegiance to the group.