600 Foreigners Surrender Near Mazir-i-Sharif
Pro-Taliban forces surrendering Saturday included about 600 foreigners who had been fighting alongside the Islamic militia in their besieged northern bastion of Kunduz, a Northern Alliance commander said.
Haji Mohammad Muhaqiq said they surrendered to his representatives and those of other commanders Abdul Rashid Dostam and Atta Mohammad as part of a deal that will see the remaining fighters in Kunduz lay down their arms Sunday.
Earlier, Northern Alliance spokesman Mohammad Habeel said that 1,000 Taliban had laid down their weapons and surrendered to the northwest of Kunduz and another 700 had given up to the east. He did not speak of foreigners.
Some 500-600 Taliban soldiers had turned themselves in before Saturday, according to Northern Alliance officials. The alliance had launched an offensive against Kunduz on Thursday after expiration of a surrender-or-die deadline.
Estimates of the number of pro-Taliban soldiers trapped in Kunduz ranged from 3,000 to 9,000, including Pakistanis, Arabs and Chechens believed tied to the al-Qaeda network of suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden.
Foreign fighters had held out against surrender in Kunduz in the face of daily US bombings for more than a week, fearing execution if they were caught by the Northern Alliance.
Muhaqiq said that under an agreement between the Northern Alliance and the Taliban, foreign fighters would be jailed and Afghan members of the Islamic militia would be disarmed and sent south to their homes.
The surrender of the foreigners to a group of three Alliance factions took place at Qala Gori Mar, about 50 kilometres (30 miles) west of Kunduz and 10 kilometres (six miles) east of the northern city of Mazir-i-Sharif.
Muhaqiq said Dostam was leading about 2,000 troops from the three Northern Alliance factions towards Kunduz to officially take over the last remaining Taliban stronghold in the north.
"Tomorrow morning the handing over process will start. It will last until the afternoon," he said.
"Local people will take control of Kunduz and there was no argument among the three factions about that."
Muhaqiq did not rule out having foreign fighters eventually being returned to their home countries.
"We will jail them, and treat them as human beings in accordance with Islamic Sharia, and later we will examine all requests," Muhaqiq said.
"If there are requests from the United States or the United Nations or their home countries, we will hand them over. That has been agreed with the Taliban.
"We have promised and committed to the Taliban that all Afghans, without discrimination, will be sent to their homes safely." – Afghanistan (AFP)