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Family Members Claim Anti-Taleban Leader 'Alive and Well' in Afghanistan - 2001-11-02


The family of an exiled Afghan tribal leader say he is safe inside Afghanistan, but cannot confirm or deny reports that some of his followers have been captured by the Taleban. Hamid Karzai recently slipped into Afghanistan on a self-styled "peace mission."

Speaking from his home near Baltimore, Qayum Karzai said his brother is alive and well inside Afghanistan. He said members of the family in Pakistan spoke directly to Hamid Karzai by telephone.

"He is fine. He was calm and calculated," said Mr. Karzai "No rush, no danger that he knew. He just talked that he is okay - just the way that he has always talked."

Hamid Karzai, the former deputy foreign minister in Afghanistan's pre-Taleban communist government, was in Afghanistan on what his brother calls a "peace mission. While there, Taleban forces clashed with Mr. Karzai's followers. He escaped but the Taleban says it captured 25 of his followers.

The capture of the group has not been verified.

But Qayum Karzai dismissed Taleban claims that U.S. forces tried to rescue his brother. "Absolute rubbish. That is their propaganda," he said. "That is their propaganda to emotionalize the whole issue. There was no attempt by the U.S. military. No, we didn't call for their help, and I don't even think they knew what was happening."

Another anti-Taleban leader, Abdul Haq, was captured and executed last month while on a mission to encourage members of the Taleban to defect.

Qayum Karzai took pains to distance his brother from Abdul Haq's aborted efforts, and emphatically denied that Hamid Karzai was acting on behalf of the United States or any other foreign power.

"We're active to create an Afghanistan that has respect for itself, for its culture, for our religion, and for our land, and has respect for the rule of law in the international community that is, a law-abiding member of the international community," he said. "That's what we stand for. So anybody who wants that in Afghanistan is our friend. Anybody who does not want that in Afghanistan is our enemy."

Mr. Karzai was trying to organize a council, or shura, of tribal elders. He has the potential to rally support among he fellow Pashtuns, which comprise the largest ethnic group in Afghanistan. Most analysts believe the Northern Alliance fighting the Taleban cannot rule Afghanistan on its own in any future setup because it is composed primarily of ethnic minorities such as Uzbeks, Tajiks, and Hazaras.

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