Afghan president sending delegation to U.S. prison

Thursday, October 31, 2002

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Afghan President Hamid Karzai met Wednesday with two white-bearded men, one leaning on a cane, and was surprised at how old they are, considering that they were just released after months of captivity from a U.S. detention facility for Taliban and al-Qaida suspects.

The two elderly Afghans, a younger compatriot and a Pakistani man were the first detainees freed from the compound in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Karzai said he would sent a delegation to the prison to check on the other Afghan prisoners there, presidential spokesman Sayed Fazel Akbar said. He did not say when.

One of the men, Mohammed Hagi Fiz, says he is 105 years old; the other, Mohammed Sadiq, claims to be 90. Both appeared to be at least in their late 70s.

"Everybody was surprised. I think there was some mistake," Akbar said after the meeting. "These old guys are not able to take weapons against anybody." Both men said they had no links to the Taliban or al-Qaida.

Also present was Jon Mohammed, who smiled broadly as he carried a sack with his belongings on his way to meeting the president. Mohammed, 35, said he had been forced to fight alongside the Taliban.

The three returned Sunday from the high-security island prison after U.S. officials said they no longer posed a threat. Transfers of prisoners from Afghanistan to Guantanamo began in January.

Akbar said the meeting with Karzai was brief, and the president asked them about their time at Guantanamo.

"They said the situation was okay, but there are a lot of other Afghans there," Akbar said.

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