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Karzai offers olive branch to Taliban

The President marked the 14th anniversary of the defeat of a communist Govt with a call to the Taliban to give up their insurgency.

india Updated: Apr 28, 2006 15:33 IST

Afghan President Hamid Karzai marked the 14th anniversary of the defeat of a communist government on Friday with a call to the Taliban to give up their insurgency and rejoin society.

Mujahideen holy warrior forces captured Kabul on April 28, 1992, ending the rule of a pro-Soviet government but ushering in a civil war that only ended when the Taliban seized power in 1996.

The Taliban, ousted by US and Mujahideen forces in late 2001, have in recent months unleashed a wave of roadside and suicide bombings, ambushes and raids, in their drive to oust foreign forces and defeat Karzai's government.

"I call upon all brothers who are still unconsciously the slaves of propaganda ... not to cause killing, bloodshed and insecurity under the orders of others, and ask them to return to their homes and serve their countrymen," Karzai said in a victory day speech.

Karzai, who has been leading Afghanistan since shortly after the Taliban were ousted, first called on rank-and-file Taliban to rejoin society more than two years ago and has repeated it several times, but few have taken up the offer.

A Taliban commander, speaking shortly before Karzai's latest call, urged Afghans to join the jihad, or holy war, to force out foreign "infidels", just as Soviet troops were forced out in the 1980s.

"The victorious jihad against the Soviet Union is being celebrated at a time when Afghanistan is occupied by infidels under the leadership of America," deputy Taliban chief and former defence minister, Obaidullah Akhund, told the agency.

Akhund, speaking by telephone from an undisclosed location, said the United States and its allies toppled the Taliban and installed a "puppet government" only after intense bombing that "martyred thousands of innocent Afghans".

Foreign forces were now using various tactics to make their occupation permanent, he said.

"The Afghan people should stand up against the infidels for the independence of Afghanistan and join the Taliban in the freedom struggle and force out foreign troops like Soviet forces," he said.

Friday's celebration included a military parade along a main road not far from some of the ruins left over from the civil war that followed the capture of Kabul in 1992.

Tens of thousands of people were killed as rival factions battled for control of the city, reducing whole neighbourhoods to rubble.

Some of the commanders who battled then are now colleagues in Karzai's government while others are allies of the Taliban.

The military parade was led by trucks pulling two old British cannons, captured during a brief but bloody British incursion into Afghanistan in the nineteenth century.

A stream of old but newly painted hardware followed including Soviet-era armoured personnel carriers, tanks and truck-mounted multiple-rocket launchers.

Jets and helicopters thundered over the parade that was watched by Karzai and other top officials as well as senior US and other foreign military officers.

Lines of troops marched in step followed by groups of war disabled in wheelchairs and on crutches.