- The Washington Times - Sunday, September 26, 2004

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan — A former U.S. prisoner at the Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, naval base who returned to Afghanistan to rejoin the Taliban as a key commander, was killed along with two fellow fighters in a raid by Afghan security forces, officials said yesterday.

In neighboring Pakistan, authorities said paramilitary police had killed a top al Qaeda operative who was wanted on suspected involvement in the 2002 kidnapping and beheading of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl.

The Taliban commander, Maulvi Abdul Ghaffar, died along with two comrades in a gunbattle on Saturday night in Uruzgan, a southern province, Gov. Jan Mohammed Khan said.

He said authorities had received intelligence that Ghaffar was hiding in a village called Pishi and was planning an attack against the government. Security forces surrounded the house and staged the raid without suffering casualties.

The governor said Ghaffar had been a senior Taliban commander in northern Afghanistan and was arrested about two months after a U.S.-led coalition drove the militia from power in late 2001. He was held for eight months at Guantanamo Bay before his release and return to Afghanistan.

Mr. Khan and Afghan Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali Khan said Ghaffar then was appointed leader of Taliban fighters in Uruzgan, a rugged region thought to be a stronghold of the hard-line Islamic militia.

The al Qaeda operative killed in Pakistan, Amjad Hussain Farooqi, was wanted for his suspected role in the kidnapping and beheading of Mr. Pearl in 2002 and two assassination attempts against President Pervez Musharraf in December 2003.

“I, as chief spokesman for the government of Pakistan, confirm that our forces have killed Amjad Hussain Farooqi,” Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said by phone from Amsterdam, where he has gone on an official trip with Gen. Musharraf.

Mr. Ahmed said “two or three other people were also arrested during a big gunfight.” He declined to identify them but said they were still being questioned by authorities and were “very important.”

“This is the work of our security agencies, and they have done a great job,” Mr. Ahmed said.

An intelligence official in Karachi identified the arrested men as Abdul Rehman and Yaqoob Farooqi. It was not clear what relation, if any, Yaqoob Farooqi had to Amjad Hussain Farooqi. Other officials could not immediately confirm that information.

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