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Sunday, 16 September, 2001, 09:43 GMT 10:43 UK
Thousands mourn anti-Taleban leader
Ahmed Shah Masood in 1996
Ahmed Shah Masood led forces against the Taleban
Large crowds have attended the funeral of the main leader of the anti-Taleban forces in Afghanistan, Ahmed Shah Masood.

I want to follow the path of my father and to pursue the independence of my country

Ahmed Shah Masood's son
Weeping mourners carried pictures of the veteran commander, as he was buried near his home village in the heart of the Panjshir Valley in northern Afghanistan.

The BBC Central Asia correspondent says there was a clear sense of personal grief among those present, to whom Mr Masood was much more than a military leader.

The commander died after a suicide bomb attack a week ago by two men disguised as Arab journalists.

Taleban blamed

The leader of the ousted Afghan government, President Burhanuddin Rabbani, said that Mr Masood would not be forgotten.

The Taleban are under the control of Osama Bin Laden and Pakistan. Such people will be eradicated at once if God is willing

Ousted President Rabbani
He said the Taleban and their supporters in Pakistan were responsible for the commander's death.

"The Taleban are under the control of Osama Bin Laden and Pakistan. Such people will be eradicated at once if God is willing," he said.

Mr Masood's son, also called Ahmed, addressed the mourners.

"I want to follow the path of my father and to pursue the independence of my country," he told them.

Mr Masood's body was brought by helicopter to the scene and loaded onto a gun carriage.

As the mourners moved towards the venue for the funeral service, a voice called out through a loudspeaker:

"Death to Pakistan. Death to the Taleban. Death to Osama. We will fight for our freedom to the very end."

Ahmed Shah Masood's death was announced on Saturday following days of conflicting reports.

The 49-year-old commander had been giving an interview to two Arabs posing as journalists when a bomb went off. It had been concealed in a video camera.

'Lion of Panjshir'

He was not in fact the official leader of the opposition to the Taleban, but he was widely seen as the real obstacle to their conquest of the remaining enclaves of Afghanistan.

Northern Alliance fighter in Takhar province
Masood's forces hold part of northern Afghanistan
His troops hold the strategic Panjshir valley north of Kabul and mountainous country even further north.

Masood gained the name "Lion of Panjshir" for his resistance to the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan from 1979, and went on to become defence minister after Kabul was recaptured in 1992.

But warring factions within the government brought new conflict to Kabul. Then a new force backed by Pakistan, the Taleban, swept through the country and took the capital for themselves in 1996.

The BBC's Stephen Gibbs
"Soldiers from the Alliance shouted "Death to the Taleban""
Robert Fox, London Evening Standard
"[Masood] has left an excellent command structure and an airforce"
See also:

11 Sep 01 | South Asia
Profile: The Lion of Panjshir
16 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghan opposition leader dead
11 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghan opposition leader 'still alive'
11 Sep 01 | South Asia
Afghan opposition's prospects
11 Sep 01 | South Asia
Masood attack: Reports differ wildly
11 Sep 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Masood's regional allies
20 Dec 00 | South Asia
Analysis: Who are the Taleban?
05 Apr 01 | South Asia
Europe fetes anti-Taleban leader
14 Feb 01 | South Asia
Taleban lose key city
16 Sep 00 | South Asia
Afghan war threatens region
03 Aug 98 | South Asia
Afghanistan's years of bloodshed
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