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Saturday, 9 February, 2002, 12:09 GMT
US interrogates Taleban minister
US marine at Kandahar base
Mutawakil is being held at the Kandahar base
The former Taleban foreign minister has given himself up after spending the past two weeks negotiating his surrender, Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai has said.

US military officials in southern Afghanistan are now questioning Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil at their base at Kandahar. The city was formerly the centre of Taleban power.

Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil
Mutawakil was a close aide to Taleban leader Mullah Omar
Mr Mutawakil was a close associate of the fugitive Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and is the highest-raking Taleban official so far to be taken into custody.

The US military hopes that Mr Mutawakil will provide important intelligence about the Taleban and Osama Bin Laden's al-Qaeda network.

Mr Mutawakil surrendered to the Afghan autorities in Kandahar, who handed him over to American military custody.

"As we've done with people that have turned themselves in, we will question him," Major Brad Lowell, a spokesman for the US Central Command, told Reuters.

"If we take any detainees we would hope to get some information," he said.

Taleban spin doctor

The BBC's Kate Clark in Kabul says it is not known what kind of a deal was reached for Mr Mutawakil's surrender but he may have valuable information, perhaps even on the whereabouts of Mullah Omar.

However, as a relative moderate, more hardline Taleban officials may not have shared key information with him, she says.

Osama Bin Laden
The US does not know if Osama Bin Laden is alive
Mr Mutawakil played an important propaganda role for the Taleban, putting a gloss on systematic human rights abuses, our correspondent says.

He also privately voiced concern about the increasing influence of Bin Laden and other Arab militants.

Forces regrouping

Despite the US campaign, very few senior Taleban figures have been caught and most members are still at large.

Although the Taleban's power base has been smashed, there are signs that some are regrouping.

One political party of relative moderates has been established in neighbouring Pakistan, and there are reports of a more shadowy hardline faction re-forming inside Afghanistan.

New legislation to allow the formation of political parties is due to be passed soon.

Interim Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah has said former Taleban would never be allowed to establish parties, but the interim justice minister, Abdulrahim Karimi, has told the BBC it would be up to the Supreme Court to decide.

The BBC's Kate Clark reports from Kabul
"He is one of the few senior Taleban to be detained so far"
See also:

09 Feb 02 | South Asia
Profile: Wakil Ahmad Mutawakil
07 Feb 02 | Americas
CIA missile 'hits al-Qaeda leaders'
22 Nov 01 | Americas
Spy plane hunting Bin Laden
07 Feb 02 | Americas
US resumes Camp X-Ray flights
06 Feb 02 | Americas
'American Taleban' to stay in jail
22 Nov 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Al-Qaeda's origins and links
18 Jan 02 | World
Global raids target al-Qaeda
27 Nov 01 | South Asia
Analysis: What next for al-Qaeda?
02 Jan 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Al-Qaeda to struggle on
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