Former Mujahedeen Stage Rally in Kabul

The Associated Press
Friday, February 23, 2007; 4:17 AM

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Tens of thousands of former mujahedeen, including top government figures, rallied Friday to show support for a proposed amnesty for Afghans suspected of war crimes and some called for the death of those demanding prosecution of warlords who were involved in a quarter-century of fighting.

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 were deployed throughout the city amid fears of unrest.

"Whoever is against mujahedeen is against Islam and they are the enemies of this country," white-bearded 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 Sayyaff and other prominent mujahedeen leaders.

There were no reports of violence.

Friday's rally followed a resolution passed 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 in the early 1990s that cost tens of thousands of lives.

International rights groups and the United Nations have condemned the 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 Constitution and Islamic law.

Among those attending the rally were prominent members of the government and parliament, including Sayyaff, 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.

The New York-based rights group Human Rights Watch has called for officials including Khalili and Dostum to face trial before a special court for alleged war crimes _ although no such tribunal has been organized or appears imminent.

In a report, the rights group also listed Fahim, Ismail Khan and Rabbani as among the "worst perpetrators."

Others who should be brought to trial include Taliban leader Mullah Omar and fugitive warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, it said.

© 2007 The Associated Press