Afghan warlord arrested in England

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An Afghan warlord accused of waging a campaign of murder, abductions and torture in his home country was under arrest in London last night following an investigation by Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch.

Zardad Khan is being held in Paddington Green police station while a decision is to be made on whether to charge him under laws forbidding torture, which formed part of the case against the former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Mr Khan - also known as Commander Zardad - has been running a pizza parlour in Bexleyheath, south-east London, for three years since he arrived in Britain and applied for asylum.

His arrest on Monday morning took place after detectives had travelled to Afghanistan to gather evidence.

A spokeswoman for Scotland Yard said: "I can confirm that on 14 July officers from the Metropolitan Police's anti-terrorist branch arrested a 40-year-old man."

If charges are made against Mr Khan, it will be the first time the international convention on torture, incorporated into the 1988 Criminal Justice Act, has been used in a prosecution.

Police sources said that people had travelled hundreds of miles to speak to the Scotland Yard officers while they were in Afghanistan. It is alleged that potential witnesses were threatened by Mr Khan's associates and it is unclear how many would be prepared to travel to England for a trial.

One of Mr Khan's lieutenants, Abdullah Shah, nicknamed the "human dog", was used to bite prisoners. Large, hairy and educationally subnormal, he was kept in a cave with a chain around his neck by Mr Khan. Mr Shah was recently sentenced to death by a court in Kabul and has appealed against the verdict.

Mr Khan has maintained in his repeated applications to stay in this country, that he was an enemy of the Taliban. Soon after arriving in Britain he said: "We never harassed anyone, we never killed anyone. I was not the commander in Sarowbi, I was just an advisor.

"I came to England because we have lots of trouble because the Taliban are trying to kill me. I am not doing anything ... I am just living my life. Two of my brothers have died. I have not been able to return because I have no documents."