Taliban execute opposition leader

Saturday, October 27, 2001

KABUL, Afghanistan -- In a stunning blow to U.S.-backed efforts to undermine the Taliban, the ruling Islamic militia Friday captured and executed a former guerrilla leader who slipped into Afghanistan to try to lure tribal leaders away from the regime.

U.S. jets struck a Red Cross compound in Kabul for a second time this month.

Abdul Haq, whose death was confirmed by his family, was the second of a prominent Afghan opposition leader killed in recent weeks. Northern alliance military leader Ahmed Shah Massood was assassinated by suicide bombers last month.

Haq returned to Afghan-istan six days ago to try to convince Afghan tribal leaders to support a U.S.-backed plan under which former king Mohammad Zaher Shah would convene a grand council of all Afghan factions to organize a new government to replace the ruling militia.

Haq's nephew Mohammed Yousuf told reporters in Pakistan that the former guerrilla and a companion were taken to the Rishkore barracks near Kabul and hanged. Their bodies were then sprayed with bullets, he said.

Rescue attempt

"At the same time Abdul Haq was captured, one jet and two helicopters came to try to help him but they failed," the Taliban's Bakhtar news agency said.

Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, asked in Washington about the Taliban report, said: "I don't have any information that any rescue attempt was made."

As hero of the war against the Soviets and member of the majority Pashtun community, Haq represented the kind of figure the United States and its allies need if they are to form a multiethnic, broad-based government to replace the Taliban.

In other attacks-related developments:

Britain announced it will commit 200 special forces troops to the offensive in Afghanistan as part of a larger military force to include warships and planes. They are to be stationed on assault ships in the region, and 400 more will be on standby.

Tens of thousands of people marched peacefully through the middle of Karachi, Pakistan, to protest U.S.-led strikes on Afghanistan and the support of Pakistan's government in carrying them out.

Friday's American attacks on the capital, Kabul, took place on the Muslim holy day, some of them at a time when many people were preparing for midday prayers in the mosques.

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