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Taleban Leader Reportedly to Surrender Kandahar Stronghold - 2001-12-06


Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is reported to have decided to surrender Kandahar, the last remaining Taleban stronghold in Afghanistan.

The former Taleban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salaam Zaeef, said Mullah Omar decided to hand over the southern city after talks with regional leaders. "For the welfare of the people of Afghanistan, [we] should surrender the power to tribal elders. This was decided today," he said.

Mr. Zaeef said the transfer could take place in the next day or two and that the Taleban will turn over power to Mullah Naqibullah, a former senior military officer. He did not provide any other details of the hand-over.

Earlier, Hamid Karzai, the new head of the interim Afghan government, offered an amnesty to Taleban fighters who surrender but not to Mullah Omar. Mr. Zaeef said the Taleban leader is still in Afghanistan, but did not say what would become of him once he surrenders Kandahar.

Elsewhere, Afghan forces and US warplanes are reported to be continuing a fierce offensive in eastern Afghanistan near the Tora Bora cave complex. Osama bin Laden and other leaders of the al-Qaida terrorist network are believed to be hiding in the caves with several thousand fighters.

Meanwhile, the agreement on an interim Afghan government that was reached Wednesday in Germany has come under criticism by two anti-Taleban leaders.

Ethnic Uzbek leader Abdul Rashid Dostum, whose forces control much of the northern part of the country, told the Reuters news agency that he will boycott the new administration. He said his faction would not take the cabinet positions allocated to it and will not go to Kabul until there is, what he termed, a proper government in place.

Speaking in Islamabad, Afghan Pashtun leader Sayed Ahmed Gailani, expressed his reservations about the make up of the new government. He said the Bonn agreement had created "injustices in the distribution of the ministries."

Both Mr. Gailani and Mr. Dostum said, however, that they remain committed to the peace process.