Five Britons died fighting for the Taliban in Mazar

War on Terrorism: Volunteers
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The Independent Online

Five British Muslims have been killed while fighting for the Taliban in the strategic city of Mazar-i-Sharif captured by Northern Alliance troops last week, it was claimed yesterday.

The UK-based Islamic extremist group al-Muhajiroun said the men, led by a 24-year-old Londoner who called himself Abdul Salim, were "martyrs" who had died with other foreign volunteers. It was unclear when the men died or whether they were among more than 500 mostly Pakistani fighters who were massacred by opposition forces when they took Mazar eight days ago.

The deaths bring to nine the number of British Muslims believed to have been killed in Afghanistan since the beginning of the American-led bombing campaign and Northern Alliance assault.

Hundreds of pro-Taliban Britons are claimed to be in the region. The Government has warned they could face prosecution on return to Britain after four men were killed in Kabul at the end of October.

Al-Muhajiroun named two of the latest men to have died along with Salim, from Whitechapel, east London, as Zulfikar Ahmed, 28, from Leicester, and Abu Waheed, 26, from Crawley, West Sussex.

Hassan Butt, the group's spokesman in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, refused to give the names of the remaining two Britons from the group, who entered Afghanistan about 1 November. Mr Butt said: "They all died as martyrs fighting the so-called coalition against terrorism. They went there to fight for the Taliban and were prepared to give their lives. We still believe the Taliban have not been defeated. We will be sending more volunteers, money and weapons to them."

The spokesman said he knew of 100 Britons who were with the Taliban in Afghanistan along with 700 waiting in Pakistan, all of whom were "ready to die".

Before crossing into Afghanistan, Mr Salim, who described himself as a Bangladeshi but admitted using a pseudonym, posed for pictures and gave an interview in which he declared his devotion to al-Qa'ida. He said: "I think bin Laden is an inspiration to Muslims."

The Foreign Office said it would be impossible for the British authorities to independently verify any deaths or injuries to UK nationals in the current situation in Afghanistan.