Former Mujahedeen Stage Rally in Kabul
Friday, February 23, 2007; 6:55 AM
KABUL, Afghanistan -- Thousands of former fighters, including top government figures, rallied Friday to support a proposed amnesty for Afghans suspected of war crimes.
Some former fighters called for the death of those demanding prosecution of warlords who were involved in a quarter-century of fighting, first against the Soviet Union and then among themselves.
About 25,000 people, many holding pictures of leaders of the mujahedeen, or holy warriors, flocked to Kabul's National Stadium as thousands of police deployed throughout the city.
"Whoever is against mujahedeen is against Islam and they are the enemies of this country," Abdul Rasul Sayyaf, an influential lawmaker and former mujahedeen leader, told the rally.
Later, youths marched through the city, chanting "Death to enemies of Afghanistan!" and "Death to America!" They also shouted "Death to Malalai Joya!" _ a female lawmaker who is among the most outspoken critics of Sayyaf and other prominent mujahedeen leaders.
There were no reports of violence.
Friday's rally followed a resolution by both houses of Afghanistan's parliament calling for an amnesty that would cover the mujahedeen leaders who led the anti-Soviet resistance in the 1980s and then plunged the country into a civil war that cost tens of thousands of lives.
War crimes accusations include the killing of thousands of civilians in Kabul by indiscriminate shelling and rocketing during the 1992-95 civil war.
International rights groups and the United Nations have condemned the parliamentary proposal.
The rally appeared to be an attempt by the former warlords to pressure President Hamid Karzai into signing the resolution into law.
Karzai on Thursday told reporters he had yet to receive the resolution and would study it and hold consultations before issuing a decision based on the Afghan constitution and Islamic law.
Among those attending the rally were prominent members of the government and parliament, including Sayyaf, Vice President Karim Khalili, Karzai senior security adviser Mohammed Qasim Fahim, an army chief of staff, Abdul Rashid Dostum, Energy Minister Ismail Khan and former President Burhanuddin Rabbani.