Taliban Set Amnesty for Leader as Condition to Surrender Last Bastion

Published December 6th, 2001 - 02:00 GMT

The Afghan Taliban militia said on Thursday they would surrender their last stronghold, Kandahar, if an amnesty is given for their leader Mohammad Omar. 

According to Reuters, Washington appeared sure to refuse the condition.  

A Taliban official confirmed, however, that the Islamic militia would begin handing over its last bastion of Kandahar to Pashtun tribal leaders on Friday. 

"This agreement was that Taliban should surrender Kandahar peacefully to the elders of these areas and we should guarantee the lives and the safety of Taliban authorities, and all the Taliban from tomorrow should start this programme ...," former Taliban ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef told CNN in a telephone interview. 

He insisted that the Taliban would not surrender to Hamid Karzai, the new Afghan interim leader and a Pashtun elder who has been cooperating with the United States to foment unrest among the southern tribes. 

"The Taliban will surrender to elders, not to Karzai ... Karzai and other persons (who) want to enter Kandahar by the support of America, they won't be allowed to enter Kandahar city," he said.  

"The Taliban will surrender the weapons, the ammunition, to elders," he told the network, as cited by AFP. 

According to Reuters, the Taliban in besieged Kandahar had struck an agreement to lay down their weapons in talks with Karzai, citing a Taliban spokesman as saying in Islamabad.  

“The Taliban and Karzai agreed to the surrender of Kandahar for the welfare of the people to decrease the casualties to life and to protect the dignity of the people,” he said.  

“Tomorrow the Taliban will start surrendering their weapons to Mullah Naqibullah, a famous commander. He will be in Kandahar tomorrow.” Naqibullah is not clearly aligned to any faction.  

Asked about the fate of the Mullah Omar, who until this week had urged his fighters to fight to the death and who, like Osama bin Laden, has a US bounty on his head, the spokesman said:  

“His life will be saved and he will be allowed to live with dignity. He is a mujahid (holy warrior), he has worked for the people of Afghanistan and he is not guilty.”  

US officials said only that they were aware of the surrender talks. Washington is expected to turn down flat any suggestion of letting Omar go free, said Reuters. 

Splits meanwhile appeared in the fragile new power-sharing government intended to replace the Taliban within a day of its being formed, and wounded refugees accused US bombers of slaughtering civilians on the roads, reported AFP – Albawaba.com 

© 2001 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com)

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