The leader of a dangerous Taliban group that operates in eastern Afghanistan spoke at the funeral of a former Guantanamo Bay detainee who died last week after exercising at the detention facility.
Anwar ul Haq Mujahid, the commander of the Tora Bora Military Front, a Taliban subgroup based in Nangarhar province, spoke yesterday at the funeral of Awal Gul, who was detained by US forces in 2002 and died at Guantanamo Bay on Feb. 1. Gul was a Taliban commander in Nangarhar province who had allegedly been entrusted by Osama bin Laden with $100,000 to aid al Qaeda operatives fleeing Afghanistan to Pakistan in late 2001 [see LWJ report, Former Taliban commander dies at Gitmo]. Gul also “associated with” bin Laden on three occasions, according to declassified documents produced at Guantanamo.
Mujahid read a statement at Gul’s funeral, The New York Times reported. Thousands of people were said to be in attendance, “many chanting anti-American slogans and vowing revenge for what they said was his murder.”
According to the Voice of Jihad, the Taliban’s propaganda arm which publishes press releases in English, an official statement was issued.
At the funeral, a “statement of the of the Islamic Emirate was read out to the large gathering of the attendees in which the commander Awal Gul was referred to as a courageous martyr and that the retribution for the martyrdom of Mulaim Awal Gul must be sought.”
Mujahid is a prominent Taliban commander in the east. He is the son of Maulvi Mohammed Yunis Khalis, who was instrumental in welcoming Osama bin Laden to Afghanistan after al Qaeda was ejected from Sudan in 1996.
Pakistani intelligence officials are said to have detained Mujahid in Peshawar in June 2009, but it was rumored that he was released sometime last year. US intelligence officials contacted by The Long War Journal said that Mujahid had not been imprisoned but merely placed into protective custody.
Taliban’s treatment of Gul after his death refutes claims he “quit”
Despite numerous claims by Gul’s lawyer, Matthew Dodge, that his client had quit the Taliban one year prior to the Sept. 11, 2001 attack on the US, the Taliban’s treatment of Gul shows the group still viewed him as an active member.
The appearance of Mujahid at Gul’s funeral, as well as the reading of an official statement from the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, demonstrate that the Taliban considered him to have been within their ranks. In today’s statement, the Taliban described Gul as being “a courageous martyr”, indicating they believe he died while fighting for their cause. He was also described as “the renowned commander.”
The Taliban also issued an official statement praising Gul, which was released on Feb. 5, just days after his death. In that statement, Gul was described as “the prominent Jihadi commander of Nangarhar province” and “the eminent commander” [see Threat Matrix report, Taliban mourn death of ’eminent commander’ at Gitmo].
Karzai requests release of another Taliban official from Guantanamo
On Tuesday, Afghan President Hamid Karzai echoed the High Peace Council’s request for the release of another Guantanamo detainee, Khairullah Khairkhwa. From 1999 until the fall of the Taliban in late 2001, Khairkhwa was the governor of Herat province. He was allegedly involved in drug trafficking, had ties to senior al Qaeda leaders, and admittedly set up security for meetings between the Taliban and Iran. [See LWJ reports: Afghan peace council requests release of Gitmo detainee, and Iran and the Taliban, allies against America.]
Karzai and the High Peace Council claim that Khairkhwa could take part in peace talks between the Taliban and America if he is released.
“If he wants to talk, we welcome him,” Karzai said during a press conference, according to The New York Times. “We would talk to him, we would arrange his release.”