Taliban Reportedly Executes Top Opposition Leader
The Taliban claimed Haq had slipped into Afghanistan six days ago to rally people against the Taliban and in favor of the former king, Mohammad Zaher Shah, who is living in exile in Rome.
Haq was captured at around 2:30 a.m. local time this morning while fleeing on horseback, was charged with treason and executed, Taliban officials said.
According to the Taliban’s news agency, U.S. jets and helicopters tried to protect Haq from being apprehended.
“At the same time Abdul Haq was captured, one jet and two helicopters came to try to help him but they failed,” Bakhtar reported.
The Taliban accused Haq of trying to pay people to change sides, a tactic commonly used in Afghanistan.
“The Taliban have killed Abdul Haq along with two other people,” a Taliban Information Ministry official told Reuters. “This happened on the basis of the verdict of the Ulema that anyone who assists the United States is liable to be killed.”
In Rome, Hamid Sidiq, a spokesman for Zaher Shah, said that Haq had entered Afghanistan with peace proposals on behalf of the former Afghan king.
“Commander Haq was on a mission for peace, not for war,” Sidiq said. “He was not going to fight anyone but to talk to tribal elders to inform them about the peace initiative of his majesty, the king.”
Haq’s family reportedly confirmed that the famed warrior had been killed. Haq, a prominent guerrilla leader and veteran of Afghanistan’s war against Soviet occupation, retired from politics in 1992.
“Afghanistan has lost one of its finest and greatest sons and I and my family have lost a great friend,” Mostapha Zaher, grandson and chief spokesman of the former Afghan king, said.
The United States has not confirmed any of the reports coming from Afghanistan.
“It is an unconfirmed report as far as we’re concerned,” said Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem, deputy director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. “We can’t confirm in fact he has been captured, much less executed.”
Stufflebeem denied the reports that U.S. military aircraft were covering Haq.
“I don’t have any information that any rescue attempt was made,” Stufflebeem said. “I have no reports that the Central Command in any way was aware of this, much less responded to it.”
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher said in a media briefing that Haq’s loss would be sad but not crippling to efforts to build a multi-ethnic government.
“We hope these reports are not true but we’ve seen them and his death would be very sad and regrettable,” Boucher said, but added that other Afghans in exile were continuing to work on building a government.