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Osama's ex-protege gets into Yale

From Taliban to one of the world's best institutions, it has been a strange journey for Rahmatullah Hashemi.

india Updated: Feb 27, 2006 17:08 IST

The University of Yale has a freshman who is thankful to have landed up in the prestigious institution rather than the Guantanamo Bay prison.

Sayed Rahmatullah Hashemi, a former Taliban spokesperson, who has the dubious distinction of having come in contact with terror mastermind Osama bin Laden has joined a non-degree course, which includes a class on terrorism.

The reading list of Hashemi -- once a featured speaker and a "roving ambassador" from Afghanistan -- has changed drastically from the Holy Quran and Persian poems to English, 'Reading and Writing Argument' and 'Introduction to Political Philosophy' ever since he joined the University in July, at the start of the summer term.

Turned away initially from a Taliban office in Kandahar, Hashemi had offered his skills as a computer operator because of his "high proficiency in English," the New York Times quoted the freshman as saying.

But later, adding a couple of years to his age, he was accepted and became a part of the hardline Islamic regime that also brought him in contact with 9/11 mastermind Laden.

"I saw bin Laden after he was brought to Kandahar in 1997," Rahmatullah told the Times. "He came to the foreign office with some people. He was a very tall guy. I knew him as a rich man, an Arab, but there was no reason at the time to remember his name."

Hashemi fled Afghanistan for Pakistan after the September 11 bombings.

First Published: Feb 27, 2006 15:53 IST