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Najibullah’s Brother Granted Haven In US

August 19, 1988

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The younger brother of the Soviet-backed leader of Afghanistan has defected to the United States in a move that State Department officials say could tarnish Najibullah’s image.

The Afghan ruler and his brother, Saddiqullah Rahi, were said to have been at odds for years. Saddiqullah was under death threat and was protected for months by an anti-government faction that then spirited him out of Afghanistan to Pakistan, said two U.S. officials, who spoke Thursday on condition of anonymity.

The two brothers sometimes go by shorter names. Najibullah is also known as Najib, and Saddiqullah as Saddiq.

Saddiqullah, 37, his wife, Soraya, and their two young sons reached the United States on Wednesday from Frankfurt, West Germany, and have been given sanctuary, the officials said.

″He was accepted in this country as a refugee,″ an official told The Associated Press. ″No special deals were made, but the processing was expedited. Elaborate security precautions have been taken.″

Saddiqullah, who was described as an intellectual, apparently joined the forces of Ahmed Shah Massoud, the rebel field commander who has led the fight against Afghan troops and Soviet forces in the strategic Panjshir valley.

He also was believed to have joined the Jamiat-i-Islami party, one of the largest opposition groups.

Some years ago, a U.S. official said, Saddiqullah served as Afghanistan’s banking representative in Hamburg, West Germany. He broke with his brother, and claimed he was kidnapped, taken to East Germany and forced back to Afghanistan, the official said.

″It certainly doesn’t do anything for the image of the leader of Afghanistan for his brother, who had a privileged position, to defect,″ the official said.

Meanwhile, the State Department, expressing satisfaction with the pace of the Soviet troop pullout from Afghanistan, urged Moscow on Thursday to withdraw all remaining soldiers by year’s end - six weeks before the deadline set by the Geneva accords.

″We see no reason why the Soviets cannot meet their often-stated goal of completing the withdrawal by the end of 1988 - nine years to the month from their invasion,″ the department said in a statement.

″The Soviet withdrawal is indispensable to the ability of the Afghan people to determine their own future and of the Afghan refugees to return home in safety and honor,″ it said.

The Geneva accords signed last April call for completing the Soviet army’s pullout by Feb. 15. Half the troops were to have been removed by last Monday, a deadline the State Department said the Soviets met.

″The vast majority of Afghanistan is now free of Soviet troops,″ the statement said. ″Soviet combat units remain deployed in only two corridors in northern Afghanistan. The bulk of Soviet troops remaining in that country are in the Kabul area and along the road heading north from Kabul to Termez, the Soviet border town.″

On Wednesday, after Pakistani President Mohammed Zia ul-Haq was killed in an air crash, U.S. and Soviet diplomats held an unannounced meeting in Washington. Zia had played a leading role in arranging the Afghan troop withdrawal.

A U.S. official, who spoke only on condition that he not be identified, said the Soviets assured the Americans that Zia’s death would not affect the withdrawal.

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