Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has decided to surrender the Islamic militia's last major stronghold of Kandahar to a local mujahedin commander, the Afghan Islamic Press reported Thursday.
"Mullah Mohammad Omar has decided that Kandahar should be handed over to former jihadi commander Mullah Naqibullah," a Taliban spokesman told the Pakistan-based news agency.
"A decision has also been taken to form a commission which would be headed by Mullah Naqibullah who will also act as governor of Kandahar.
"Mullah Omar has taken the decision in consultation with tribal leaders and his associates and ulema (Islamic scholars). The decision will be implemented in one or two days," he said.
The report could not be independently confirmed, but a spokesman for the US-led coalition here in the Pakistani capital earlier said reports that Omar was negotiating a surrender should be taken seriously.
"I can tell you authoritatively that some of Mullah Omar's most senior commanders are negotiating their own surrender," coalition spokesman Kenton Keith told a news conference.
"You should also take seriously reports that Mullah Omar himself is negotiating to save his own skin."
He said that according to reports he had received from people on the ground, negotiations were "ongoing" between Omar and the new leader of Afghanistan's interim cabinet, Hamid Karzai, that would "spare a bloodbath".
"Negotiations were ongoing not only with that faction (Karzai's), but at a tribal level with Pashtuns, and within a regional context with people in Peshawar and Quetta," he said, referring to two Pakistani cities near the Afghan border where many exiled Afghans are living in exile.
Keith warned that many of those negotiating their surrender had "blood on their hands" and could expect to be brought to justice.
The southern city of Kandahar, where Omar lives, has been under relentless US air attack since the start of the bombing campaign on October 7 in response to the Taliban's alliance with terror suspect Osama bin Laden.
Karzai was named chairman of an interim Afghan cabinet on Wednesday after landmark inter-Afghan talks in Bonn agreed on a blueprint for elections and a new government to replace the Taliban, which evacuated Kabul on November 12 -- AFP
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