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Abdul Haq Supported Broad-Based Post-Taleban Government - 2001-10-26

Afghanistan's Taleban rulers have captured and executed a key opposition figure, accusing him of being a spy for the United States. The legendary ex-commander had been a key supporter of a U.S.-backed plan to forge a broad-based post-Taleban government in Afghanistan.

Taleban officials say soldiers executed Abdul Haq along with several unidentified companions midday Friday, just hours after arresting him outside Kabul.

They say his execution is in accordance with a clerical ruling that calls for the death penalty to anyone who assists the United States.

Mr. Haq, a legendary commander during the Afghan fight against the Soviets in the 1980's, left Afghanistan during the civil war that ensued after the Soviet withdrawal. But he had returned to neighboring Pakistan recently in a bid to rally support for a coalition government in Afghanistan under the former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah.

His family held a news conference Friday confirming his arrest and saying he had slipped back into Afghanistan several days ago to help find a political solution to the crisis.

Abdul Haq recently discussed his plans for Afghanistan in an interview with VOA. "The role I would like to play is to go and talk to former mujahideen commanders and these Taleban commanders who are tired of this system. They know their system failed and they are looking for changes," he said. "Put them together, then some tribes remain, and bring changes to Kabul and bring [the] king back to Afghanistan and to finish this war once and for all."

Taleban officials say they had been tracking Mr. Haq for several days, before arresting him early Friday. They say there was heavy U.S. bombing in the area and that a helicopter tried to swoop down and rescue him. They also accused him of planning a revolt and helping U.S. forces target their troops.

The U.S. embassy in Islamabad would not comment officially, though an official who asked not to be identified said he was not aware of any U.S. support - militarily or financially - for Mr. Haq. The unidentified official did go on to say that exiled tribal leaders in Pakistan are very concerned about how the Taleban treated the arrest. He also said the United States is watching very closely to see their response.

The United States and other Western powers have been pushing a plan by Afghan exiles who hope to establish a broad-based government under the former king, currently living in Rome. Mr. Haq, who like the Taleban was an ethnic Pashtun, was seen as one of the key supporters of the plan.