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Afghan leader: Few top al Qaeda, Taliban remain



WASHINGTON (CNN) -- About 35 hard-core Taliban and al Qaeda leaders remain at large, and Afghanistan is committed to bringing them to justice, the country's interim leader said Sunday.

"Whoever is found guilty of connection with terrorism, of connection with the perpetration of atrocities against the Afghan people -- they will be found, and they will be tried," Hamid Karzai said on NBC's "Meet the Press."

Karzai said that most of the 20,000 to 30,000 Taliban fighters were allowed to return to their homes and pose no danger.

"They were not responsible for anything," he said. "They are just common soldiers."

Karzai said government forces also are pressing to find Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and accused terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden.

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The country's leader authorized anti-Taliban fighters to negotiate for the surrender of a Taliban commander leading a pocket of resistance in the Helmand province's Baghran district about 120 miles northwest of Kandahar. Those talks began last week. It was suspected that those forces also may be sheltering Omar.

"If we find him, we will arrest him -- today, tomorrow, whenever," Karzai said. But he added that Omar could elude his pursuers. "He's one man, and one man can easily hide, can easily take a motor bike and go places."

He said, "We'll keep looking, and finally he'll be in our hands."

As for bin Laden, Karzai said, "I don't know where he is. He may be inside Afghanistan; he may be outside Afghanistan."

Karzai said his new government also is determined to stop Afghans from growing poppies harvested for opium and to prevent drug smuggling. It won't be able to do so, however, until the nation's agricultural base is restored and the economy improves, he said.



 
 
 
 



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