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Taleban Begins Surrendering Weapons in Kandahar - 2001-12-07

Taleban fighters have begun turning over their weapons to Mujahedin forces in the southern city of Kandahar.

Reports from Afghanistan say the defenders of the city have begun turning over their weapons to a joint commission of tribal elders, Islamic scholars and Mujahedin commanders. The commission is headed by Mullah Naqibullah, a former Mujahedin commander and military chief of the ancient city.

Similar surrenders are also reported to be underway in nearby Helmand province as well as several other Taleban controlled cities in the area, including Spin Boldak which lies just across the border from Quetta, Pakistan. The transfer of power is said to be going smoothly.

The peaceful handover of Kandahar was announced Thursday following several days of negotiations between the Taleban and Hamid Karzai, the Pashtun tribal leader recently named to head an interim government in Afghanistan.

So far there is no word on the whereabouts of the Taleban's supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. On Thursday Mr. Karzai said Mullah Omar would be allowed to stay on in Kandahar so long as he renounced terrorism. But Friday he said any high ranking Taleban, including Mullah Omar, must face trial if there is evidence he committed crimes. The United States insists the cleric should be made to face charges in connection with terrorist attacks against the United States.

Until the Taleban decision to surrender Kandahar, Mullah Omar had ordered his men to fight to the last. According to a senior Taleban official here in Islamabad, the decision to give up was made in order to end the suffering of the people of Afghanistan.

So far there have been no public statements from Mullah Omar and there is no word on his whereabouts.