Startled, people emerged like shadows and faced raised weapons. The women and children were taken aside by the military's Female Engagement Team (FET) of female soldiers, a nod to Afghanistan's deeply conservative society.
The soldiers moved quickly and quietly. Their tone was sharp, with the occasional insult. Fluorescent sticks scattered on the ground and rifle-mounted torches provided the only light.
At one house, women and children huddled against a crumbling wall in sub-zero temperatures. They were given blankets and ushered back indoors.
Mullah Ibrahim was not there. Nor were any military-age males. Overhead, air support watched for movement in neighboring compounds.
No threat found, the elderly men and a boy who appeared to be in his teens were led inside. One by one they were finger-printed, swabs taken, retinas scanned. A soldier took a photograph of each man with a white board known as a "Capture Tag" hanging around his neck bearing his name and address.
Each was branded with the letter "H" in ink on the back of his right hand. It stands for HIIDE, or Handheld Interagency Identity Detection Equipment, after the gadget they use to record the data.
A few were taken individually to another room for "tactical questioning."
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