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Taliban, Ex-Foe Said to Reach Anti-U.S. Accord

September 27, 2002|From Associated Press

PESHAWAR, Pakistan — Taliban fugitives and Afghan fighters loyal to a former foe have become allies and are getting weapons and money from Al Qaeda and Iran for planned suicide attacks on U.S. troops in Afghanistan, one of their leaders says.

The new alliance is said to be based in eastern Afghanistan and involves men led by several former high-ranking Taliban officials and fighters of Hezb-i-Islami, a group headed by former Afghan Prime Minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar.

Hekmatyar's force was one of the U.S.-aided guerrilla armies that fought the Soviets in the 1980s. He fled to Iran in 1996 after his group was defeated by the Taliban, but he has been seeking to incite a war against U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The new alliance is known as Lashkar Fedayan-i-Islami, or the Islamic Martyrs Brigade, a Hekmatyar military commander, Salauddin Safi, said at a meeting Wednesday in this frontier city.

"There will be suicide attacks, ambushes by suicide attackers and bomb blasts against soldiers as they are moving from place to place and when they go out and disperse into smaller numbers, like in searches," he said.

Safi said the alliance plans to attack only American military targets. He said the group had nothing to do with a Sept. 5 car bombing that killed 30 people and wounded more than 150 in Kabul, the Afghan capital.

Western intelligence sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, confirmed an alliance between the Taliban and Hekmatyar. They also said they believe that the alliance is receiving money from a variety of sources, including the Al Qaeda terrorist network and Iran.

However, neither Western nor Pakistani intelligence sources could confirm the existence of the new group or the formation of suicide bombing squads.

Safi said the alliance's fighters are from the Taliban and Hezb-i-Islami. "Al Qaeda is not helping with men, but with money," he said. Iran also "is helping with money and weapons," Safi said. He wouldn't give any specifics.

Washington has accused Iran of trying to destabilize Afghan President Hamid Karzai's government by sending commandos to Afghanistan to incite tribal feuding and by supplying weapons and money to his opponents. Iran has denied the charges.

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