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US let captured Taliban general go

December 19, 2002 02:04 IST

In an embarassment to the US, special forces soldiers have revealed that the military mistakenly released one of the six most wanted Taliban leaders.

Mullah Akhter Mohammed Osmani, one of Taliban's top generals who lead thousands of troops as coalition forces ousted the hard-line regime, quickly fled to Pakistan, where he remains today, military officials were quoted as saying by the Washington Times on Wednesday.

They said that in late July, a Green Beret (Special Forces) A-Team apprehended Osmani as he left his compound at daybreak in a town west of Kandahar. He was flown to a detention centre at Bagram air base for interrogation.

However, the soldiers said, Task Force 180, the overall command in Afghanistan, released Osmani a few weeks later.

A senior administration official and two soldiers said that a US intelligence report placed Osmani in another location after his detention, and this led to his release.

Osmani and other former Taliban leaders are now trying to organise a guerrilla force to disrupt the government of Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan.

Besides Osmani, former Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar, his top aide Tayeb Agha, and top military commander Jalaluddin Happani are also among the most wanted list.

Mullah Omar is believed to be in hiding in his native Uruzgan Province, an area riddled with drug traffickers and Taliban supporters north of Kandahar. The soldiers also told the Times that they gained information on several occasions last summer on the whereabouts of Mullah Omar but commanders turned down the missions, citing extreme risk.


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