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Afghanistan Welcomes Capture of Saddam Hussein - 2003-12-15

Afghanistan is welcoming the capture of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein, even as it busies itself with the landmark task of adopting a new national constitution. The Afghan government sees certain parallels between the cases of Saddam Hussein and the fugitive former Afghan leader Mullah Omar.

Afghan transitional government spokesman, Javed Luddin, said the capture of Saddam Hussein would have a symbolic impact beyond the borders of Iraq. "Saddam signified tyranny and oppression, and to that extent I am sure the fact that he is going to be brought to justice will send a very strong message across the world," he said.

But while Mr. Luddin believes the former Iraqi leader's capture by U.S. troops Saturday marks a positive development for the world as a whole, he does not believe Iraq's situation necessarily mirrors that Afghanistan.

Afghan and U.S. forces have long sought Mullah Omar, the head of the former hard line Taleban regime until it was ousted two years ago.

Afghanistan's interim government says the Taleban violated human rights through their strict interpretation of Islamic law, which severely limited the rights of women, dealt out heavy punishments for minor offenses, and was generally oppressive.

Taleban and Mullah Omar loyalists are believed responsible for the current destabilizing insurgency, with frequent guerrilla attacks on Afghan targets, foreign relief workers and U.S. troops operating inside the country.

While Mr. Luddin says Mullah Omar was not as big a tyrant as Saddam Hussein, he does say that the former leader will have to face justice, if caught.

He said the same is true for Mullah Omar's ally, Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaida terror network blamed for attacks on the United States in 2001. "People who have committed atrocities, grave violations of human rights and of the rights of the people - there will be no dealing with those people," he said.

On a related note, Mr. Luddin told reporters that he was disappointed the capture of Saddam Hussein had distracted world attention from Afghanistan's constitutional assembly. "Up to midday [Sunday], we were kind of the top story around in all the networks. I was checking on the Internet," he said.

He joked that Afghans have often felt unfairly overshadowed by the Iraqis over the past year.