Executed rebel's plea for help ignored by allies

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The Independent Online

Abdul Haq, the legendary Afghan commander captured and executed by the Taliban, embarked on a doomed mission to rally tribal leaders in the country after Britain and the US spurned his pleas for help, sources close to him have revealed.

Mr Haq believed he could secure key defections from the Taliban in Kabul and Jalalabad, a Western supporter said. But when he approached the British authorities for money to muster a force of about 5,000 men, he was offered four satellite telephones. "To an Afghan, it was a worse insult than offering no help at all," said the supporter. "He said he already had 50 satphones, and that was the end of it."

The former mujahedin commander, who was 43, returned to Pakistan from exile in Dubai after 11 September in an attempt to gather support for the deposed Afghan king, Zahir Shah. Last month he asked Britain and the US for time and resources to enable him to weaken the Taliban, arguing that bombing would simply unite Afghans behind the regime. But he was treated coolly by the US as well as Britain, and the bombing campaign went ahead on 7 October.

Apparently despairing of outside help, he entered Afghanistan last weekend with a handful of lightly armed companions to meet Pashtun tribal leaders in his home area of eastern Afghanistan. The Taliban said it spent two days of "secret effort" tracking him, and surrounded his party before dawn yesterday at the town of Azra, in Logar province, 20 miles south of Kabul. Allies in Pakistan tried to get the Americans to help Mr Haq with immediate air strikes, but he was captured while trying to escape on horseback.

Hours later, the veteran commander, who lost part of a foot while fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s, was executed on the outskirts of Kabul. An information ministry official said he was executed along with two companions, identified as Haji Dawran and Izatullah, his nephew, in accordance with a ruling by Muslim clerics that "anyone who assists the United States is liable to be killed". Mr Haq had been carrying dollars with him to distribute to tribal figures, he said.

Mr Haq's supporter, who arranged meetings for him with British officials, said the anti-terrorism coalition had wasted an opportunity to bring the campaign to a speedier and less bloody end. "With his prestige as a mujahedin commander and his tribal connections among the Pashtun, he could have unlocked Kabul and Jalalabad before the bombing began," he said.