- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 16, 2002

TRIPOLI, Libya A first group of 44 Afghan Arabs some of whom fought with the Taliban arrived yesterday in Tripoli after Libya helped secure their release from Pakistan.
The freed Arab Afghans, who included a number of Libyans accompanied by their Pakistani or Afghan wives and children, were flown into the North African country aboard a Libyan Airways plane.
Among them was a Jordanian family of six whose father was arrested by the Pakistani authorities shortly before boarding the plane. Sources told United Press International that a Libyan was also arrested while his family was allowed to board the plane.
The Arabs first went to Afghanistan to take part in the resistance to the 10-year Soviet occupation that ended in 1989. Some remained in the country and were joined by other Arabs, many to receive training at military camps run by Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda network.
Indoctrinated in revolutionary Islam, they fought alongside the Taliban and offered some of the fiercest resistance to U.S. and Afghan forces that crushed the Taliban government last year.
The Arabs' release came after the Gadhafi Charity Organization intervened to free them on humanitarian grounds. They were first handed over three months ago to the organization, which is headed by the son of Libyan leader, Col. Moammar Gadhafi, but were only allowed to leave Pakistan after negotiations with the Pakistani authorities.
The freed Arabs were greeted in Libya yesterday by family members, who threw flowers and escorted them home.
A number said they were treated well during their detention in Pakistan.
Mohammed Ismail, an official of the Gadhafi Charity Organization, said Libya had to pay money to get the Arabs out of Afghanistan after anti-Taliban forces took control of the roads leading to Pakistan.
Mr. Ismail said he regretted that some Arab countries, which he did not name, refused to allow their nationals to return, threatening to execute any who did.
Mr. Ismail said another group of Arab Afghans, including Libyans and other nationalities, would be evacuated from Pakistan and Afghanistan.
The Libyans, he said, wished to prevent another massacre like that of Taliban and al Qaeda prisoners when they rose against their jailers in the northern Afghan city of Mazar-e-Sharif late last year.


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