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Taliban Officials Recognize New Govt.

January 9, 2002

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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) _ The Taliban defense and justice ministers and several other high-ranking leaders of the ousted ruling militia surrendered to officials of the new Afghan government and have been freed, a Kandahar commander said Wednesday.

Jalal Khan, a close associate of Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha, told The Associated Press that the defecting Taliban met officials in the Kandahar government and received general amnesty after recognizing the nation’s new interim administration headed by Prime Minister Hamid Karzai.

They have been allowed to go back to their homes and live with their families, Khan said.

``Those men who have surrendered are our brothers and we have allowed them to live in a peaceful manner,″ Khan said. ``However, they will not participate in politics.″

They include Mullah Ubaidullah, the defense minister, and Nooruddin Turabi _ the one-eyed, one-legged justice minister who imposed some of the Taliban’s harshest edicts.

Others are Abdul Haq, former security chief of Herat province, an ancient cultural crossroads where the Taliban’s crude, extreme Islamic rule was never well-accepted, the minister of mines, Mullah Saadudin, and senior officials Raees Abdul Wahid, Abdul Salam Rakti, and Mohammad Sadiq.

Intelligence Ministry officials in the capital, Kabul, would not comment Wednesday on the reported surrender and amnesties. In Kandahar, Khan said they were in line with general policy granting amnesty to Taliban who recognize Karzai’s government.

Negotiations on Taliban surrenders have frustrated the U.S.-led coalition, especially the apparent escape last week of leader Mullah Mohammed Omar who reportedly had been surrounded in the mountainous Baghran district north of Kandahar.

Marine Lt. James Jarvis, in a daily briefing to reporters at the Kandahar airport where more than 300 al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners are being detained, voiced no objection to the release of the former Taliban officials.

``We’re not in the business of determining who should and should not be in custody right now,″ Jarvis said.

In Washington, America’s top general, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers, said Tuesday that U.S. troops wrapping up operations at the bombed-out Tora Bora cave complex near the border with Pakistan had seized two senior al-Qaida members, their computers and cell phones.

Besides the computers and phones, ``some small arms and training documents were also found,″ Myers said. ``We’re exploiting those as we speak.″ The Americans are looking for clues to future al-Qaida operations and organizational details.

The two men, found Monday in a group of 14 suspected al-Qaida members, were deemed sufficiently important to be removed immediately to the detention center in Kandahar. They have not been identified.

American operations have shifted from Tora Bora to the Zawar Kili area around Khost in Paktia province, site of a former al-Qaida training camp and an assembly area for possible bids by vanquished fighters to flee into Pakistan. U.S. special forces teams are on the ground in that area, where a Green Beret soldier was killed in an ambush Friday.

The U.S. military has been targeting pockets of resistance as commanders shift their focus from an all-out search for al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, blamed for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks on the United States.

Gen. Tommy Franks, the war’s top commander, told the AP on Monday that arrangements were in place with Pakistan to allow U.S. troops in Afghanistan to cross the border in pursuit of al-Qaida and Taliban fugitives.

Franks said that in some cases, the Pakistani military should pursue such targets, as they already have with some success, or U.S. forces could notify the Pakistanis that American troops were going to follow them into Pakistan.

There was no indication that U.S. troops had already carried out such pursuits into Pakistan, and the government in Islamabad said it needs no help.

``We have made all arrangements that those who sneak into Pakistan are arrested. Pakistani forces are vigilant,″ said a Pakistani government spokesman, Mohammed Aziz Khan.

Pakistani troops have arrested more than 300 al-Qaida members who have crossed the border, many of them captured in recent days after escaping U.S. air strikes. Thousands of Pakistani troops and at least 20 helicopter gunships are guarding the border.

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