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US Ambassador says Senior Taleban Members to Surrender

U.S. Ambassador Zalmay Khalilzad told reporters Monday that a growing number of members of Afghanistan's ousted Islamist Taleban regime are taking up the Afghan government's offer of amnesty.

Taleban loyalists have been conducting an armed anti-government insurgency since they were ousted by an Afghan-U.S. military coalition in late 2001.

But Mr. Khalilzad says, in the wake of a successful presidential election last October, large numbers of Taleban fighters are laying down their arms, including some of the movement's leaders.

"Some senior members have also come in, and have agreed to join the reconciliation program, recognizing the legitimacy of the government, recognizing the fruitlessness of military resistance," said Ambassador Khalilzad.

While the ambassador did not specify which senior Taleban have agreed to surrender, he alluded to the possibility of some major defections from the insurgency.

"I'm very pleased about the progress in this regard, and I think you will all have some good news, big news, in the coming days, hopefully," he said.

The post-Taleban government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai has promised amnesty to those Taleban who agree to end fighting. But the offer specifically excludes the very top leaders, such as Taleban supreme commander Mullah Omar.

Also excluded are those considered by the government to have committed crimes against the Afghan people, although that has not yet been clearly defined.

In other comments, Mr. Khalilzad said investigators have recovered the flight data recorder from the passenger jet, which crashed outside the capital, Kabul, earlier this month, killing over 100 people on board.

He said the recorder is being sent to the United States for analysis.