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October 26, 2001
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Major blow to covert anti-Taleban effort

K J M Varma in Islamabad

In a major setback to the United States-led campaign in Afghanistan, the Taleban on Friday captured and executed a prominent resistance commander Abdul Haq and two of his associates trying to establish support for an uprising against the militia.

Forty-three-year-old Haq, who had slipped into Afghanistan from Pakistan earlier this week with the aim of winning over his fellow Pushtuns and moderate elements within the Taleban, was captured at Azro in Logar province despite efforts by US forces to rescue him.

Head of Taleban's Bakhtar news agency Abdul Henan Hemat said that Haq, a hero of the Afghan resistance war against Soviet occupation, was shot with a Kalashnikov rifle on Friday afternoon on the outskirts of Kabul.

Haq and his two associates were accused of spreading US propaganda and trying to encourage people to rebel, Hemat said adding: "Based on the Ulema's (clerics) warrant, which calls for the death penalty for anyone spying for the US, they were shot dead."

Earlier in the day, the Afghan Islamic Press quoted a Taleban spokesman as saying that the militia forces 'laid a secret siege for two days and we have managed to arrest commander Abdul Haq and his companions'.

"During the siege American helicopters carried out intense bombing to enable Haq to escape but we arrested him at 0230 hours when he tried to escape," he said.

Reports said that Haq tried to flee on horseback with several colleagues as the Taleban forces closed in and called for American air cover by satellite phone.

"American planes pounded the area resulting in injuries to two Taleban soldiers and destruction of a pickup," the spokesman was quoted as saying.

News of Haq's capture and his subsequent execution came hours before Britain announced that it would deploy ground troops to help US-led ground operations against Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden and the Taleban militia.

A force of 200 commandos of the Royal Marines would operate from warships off the coast of Pakistan with another 400 on standby in Britain to go to the region if needed, Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram told parliament indicating that a long campaign is expected.

Ingram said the British force in the region totalled 4,200 personnel and represent a major enhancement of US-led coalition capabilities.

PTI

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