- The Washington Times - Monday, February 24, 2003

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan Afghan rebel commander Gulbuddin Hekmatyar echoed Osama bin Laden's call for suicide attacks against Americans and said he is proud the United States has branded him a terrorist, according to a statement obtained yesterday.
Calling the United States the "big Satan of the world," Hekmatyar, a former Afghan prime minister, also vowed jihad (holy war) against U.S. troops in Afghanistan. American forces are combing parts of eastern Afghanistan for Hekmatyar, his loyalists and Taliban and al Qaeda fugitives.
"I am thankful to Almighty God that the United States of America thinks I am a terrorist. It is a matter of pride for me that such a strong country wants to punish me for the sake of my holy religion, Islam," the statement attributed to Hekmatyar said.
"I ask the Muslims of the world to wage a guerrilla war by using suicide attacks," the statement said. "Now is not the time for large-scale group assaults, but rather for individual attacks."
The Pashto-language statement was provided to the Associated Press by a security officer in Hekmatyar's Hezb-e-Islami group at an Afghan refugee camp in northwest Pakistan. Hekmatyar's signature was confirmed by a former member of the group.
The statement urged Iraq to respond with suicide bombings if the United States attacks.
"I say to the Iraqi people do not be afraid. I know war is being imposed upon you. You should ready yourself to carry out suicide attacks," the statement said. "History shall prove that if the Iraqi people remain united they shall find honor in conquering the USA."
The former Hezb-e-Islami member, speaking on the condition of anonymity because he feared for his life, said Hekmatyar was seen in Afghanistan's eastern Kapisa province two weeks ago and has been shuttling from there to the nearby regions of Nangarhar, Laghman and Kunar.
U.S. special forces are stationed in Kunar, where Hekmatyar is believed to have a significant force. A Western diplomat in the Afghan capital, Kabul, said Kunar was of particular concern because of its proximity to neighboring Pakistan, as well as its high peaks, where fighters can hide.
U.S. troops there have come under regular attack, often involving ambushes.
In the statement, Hekmatyar denied affiliation with the Taliban and al Qaeda, bin Laden's terrorist network. U.S. and other Western intelligence officials, several Taliban and even members of Hekmatyar's group have said he has ties to al Qaeda.
Hekmatyar's men are believed to have hidden several al Qaeda fugitives in Pakistan, including Jamal Hasan, also known as Abu Aade, a Palestinian with Jordanian and U.S. citizenship.
During the Afghan war against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, Hekmatyar received Western aid that was funneled through Pakistan's intelligence agency to the Islamic insurgents.
"Hekmatyar has many sympathizers inside political parties in Pakistan, inside the intelligence. Hekmatyar is not an enemy of Pakistan," said Hamid Gul, former head of Pakistan's intelligence agency, Inter-Services Intelligence. Pakistani intelligence supported the Taliban when it ruled Afghanistan in the 1990s, and many of its officials remain sympathetic to it.
"You can't ask people to be enemies of men they called friends just the day before. They don't see that they have done anything wrong," Mr. Gul said.
Hekmatyar is closely aligned to Pakistan's oldest and best-organized Islamic party, Jamaat-e-Islami, which is a leading member of the six-party Islamic coalition that rules the North West Frontier Province along the Afghan border.


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