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Last Updated: Monday, 27 September, 2004, 12:07 GMT 13:07 UK
Freed 'Taleban commander' killed
Prisoners in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
Hundreds of suspects were taken to Guantanamo Bay
The US military has confirmed that a suspected Taleban commander killed in Afghanistan at the weekend had been held at Guantanamo Bay but was freed.

Abdul Ghaffar, an alleged Taleban leader in central Uruzgan province, died in a gun battle on Saturday night.

Ghaffar was captured by US forces in late 2001 and taken to the Cuban jail but was allowed to return home.

An Afghan security official, Rozi Khan, said: "People like Ghaffar... return to violence and terror."

Taleban denial

The date of Ghaffar's release from Guantanamo Bay was unclear.

Interior Minister Ali Ahmad Jalali said he was freed about eight months after his capture in late 2001.

Guantanamo Bay, Cuba
There have been a number of recent releases from the Cuban jail

But the governor of Uruzgan province, Jan Mohammad Khan, said he had been released in February this year.

Mr Khan said Ghaffar had rejoined the Taleban and "was appointed as Taleban regional financial and operational commander for southern Afghanistan".

He added: "Ghaffar was a major threat to security especially ahead of elections. His death means a lot for the security of our province."

However, a Taleban spokesman, Latifullah Hakimi, told the AFP news agency that Ghaffar was not a regional commander.

"Ghaffar was a good Taleban fighter but was not provincial commander. Our commander for Uruzgan province is sound and alive.

"If [Ghaffar] was a top commander why was he released from Guantanamo?"

Mr Khan said Ghaffar was behind several attacks on US-led coalition forces, including the killing an engineer working for the UN.

'Brainwashed'

Hundreds of suspected Taleban and al-Qaeda fighters were taken to Guantanamo Bay after the fall of the Taleban.

We are certainly concerned about how [Afghan officials] reintegrate them
Major Scott Nelson,
US military spokesman

A number have been released, including two batches recently.

On 22 September, 11 Afghan prisoners returned home, while 34 Pakistanis were sent back to Islamabad on 18 September.

US military spokesman Major Scott Nelson said there were fears about reintegration because some remained "brainwashed" by militant ideologies.

"The specific reintegration programme is the responsibility of the government of Afghanistan. However, we are certainly concerned about how they reintegrate them."

Afghan security official for the southern provinces, Rozi Khan, said: "People like Ghaffar even on being released from prison return to violence and terror. It is their nature so their deaths means peace for our country."

Major Nelson said US-led operations over the weekend had led to the capture of "more than five" Taleban leaders.

One was a "higher-level target", he said.


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