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Ousted President Awaits His Fate; Safe Haven Grows Less Secure With AM-Afghanistan, Bjt

August 23, 1992

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) _ He spends his days watching television, pacing the floors and talking by satellite telephone with his wife and children. Outside in the rutted street, people revile him and call for his blood.

Since his ouster four months ago, Afghanistan’s fallen President Najibullah has been holed up behind the 10-foot walls of a United Nations compound, only a few hundred yards from his former bunker-like home.

Now the Islamic government that toppled Najibullah in April is calling for him to be handed over to stand trial for war crimes. With the last foreign U.N. staff gone from the capital, little may stand between him and Islamic justice.

A United Nations official said Afghanistan’s government is bound by a 1947 convention that protects the U.N. premises from being overrun. But with anarchy reigning in Kabul as rebel factions battle among themselves, it was difficult to say whether that provision would be respected.

The U.N. compound was once the home of another president, Mohammad Daoud, whose fate serves as an ominous reminder for Najibullah. Daoud was overthrown like Najibullah, and executed.

Diplomats who have visited the ousted president say Najibullah spends most of his time watching television and worrying about the fate of his country. Najibullah has said in interviews that he sleeps only four hours a night.

Each day, the diplomats say, he climbs the steps to a third-floor office where he uses a satellite telephone to speak with his wife, Fatana, and three children, now in exile in Germany.

In the Pashto language, the names of his children are Hilai, or ″Hope;″ Muska, or ″Smile,″ and Onai, the mountain peak that is the source of the Kabul River.

Najibullah has few visitors. His only companion is the former head of Afghanistan’s secret service, a longtime aide who refused to abandon him.

In interviews, Najibullah used to joke about winning the Nobel peace prize. But his countrymen call him a tyrant and torturer.

Most despise him for his part in the bloody 14-year war that left 1.5 million people dead and more than 5 million Afghans living as refugees in Iran and Pakistan.

″Najibullah is the worst. He’s known as the butcher of Kabul,″ said Saeed Qaribur, a loyalist of rebel chief Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

The former president is also hated for his role as chief of the feared KGB- style secret police from 1980 to 1986, when the Soviets installed him as president. In interviews, Najibullah has said he had no regrets about that tenure.

Once it was apparent his government would fall, Najibullah had hoped to be given safe passage out of the capital. But his former allies, a fierce commando-style militia, refused to let him leave from the Kabul airport, which they controlled, and he took shelter in the U.N. compound.

For weeks, his family waited in a heavily guarded five-star hotel in New Delhi, India, hoping he would be able to join them.

Some diplomatic sources say Najibullah could have fled Kabul in disguise but refused.

Update hourly