Taliban Official Says Dozens of Criminals Arrested in Sweeps

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Taliban forces have arrested dozens of criminals, kidnappers and smugglers in operations across Kabul, a Taliban government spokesman said on Sunday.

The clearance operations began in the capital and neighboring provinces two days ago, and will continue, Zabiullah Mujahid said in a press conference. The aim was to collect weapons and arrest suspects, he added.

"The operation was successful," he said. Hundreds of light and heavy weapons were confiscated, including rocket-launchers and grenades, he said. Over 60,000 rounds of ammunition were also uncovered, as well as 13 armored vehicles and 13 tons of gunpowder and explosives.

Mujahid also welcomed a recent U.S. decision to ease restrictions on Afghan banks. The new general license issued by the U.S. Treasury will allow for money transfers for Afghan businessmen and others, but exclude individual Taliban members.

He said he hoped the U.S. will continue to ease restrictions. Billions of dollars of Afghan assets are frozen in U.S. banks, severely hampering state institutions in the once aid-dependent country.

In total, nine kidnappers, six Islamic State members, and 53 thieves were arrested. Two abducted individuals were also released.

The operations, in which Taliban went door to door, have garnered criticism amid reports of abuse suffered by civilians -- including minority groups and women -- at the hands of Taliban forces.

"The intimidations, house searches, arrests and violence against members of different ethnic groups and women are crimes and must stop immediately," tweeted Andreas von Brandt, EU ambassador to Afghanistan who has not returned to the country since the Taliban takeover in August.

Responding to criticism, Mujahid said the operation was "well organized" and included female security personnel.

"All these efforts are for the benefit of the people, it was necessary for the people and the government to launch such an operation," he said.