Sunday, April 30, 2017

Notorious Afghan warlord calls for peace in first public speech

In his first public speech since signing a peace deal with the Afghan government, one of Afghanistan's most notorious warlords on Saturday called for the Taliban to stop fighting and begin negotiations.

"I invite you to join the peace caravan and stop the pointless, meaningless and unholy war," Gulbuddin Hekmatyar said to a gathering of his followers and Afghan politicians in Laghman province, east of the capital, Kabul.

"I want a free, proud, independent and Islamic Afghanistan," he said.

In February the United Nations Security Council agreed to drop sanctions against Hekmatyar, paving the way for him to return openly to Afghanistan.

The Afghan government requested the move as part of a peace deal with Hekmatyar and his militant group, Hezb-i-Islami, in September.

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani welcomed Hekmatyar's public return, saying the former strongman would cooperate with the government.

Hekmatyar's return "will compound the culture of impunity", Human Rights Watch researcher Patricia Gossman said of the deal, calling it an "affront" to victims of abuses.

A controversial figure from the insurgency against the Soviets in the 1980s and the civil wars of the 1990s, Hekmatyar is accused of ordering his fighters to bombard Kabul, leading to many casualties, besides other abuses.

In hiding for nearly a decade and a half, Hekmatyar had been designated a "global terrorist" by the United States, which has been leading an international military mission in Afghanistan for the past 15 years.

American and other Western leaders praised the deal with him, however, hoping it could help lead to wider peace in Afghanistan. - More, Reuters

Notorious Afghan warlord calls for peace in first public speech


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