Afghan warlord vows to help al-Qaida

May 5, 2006 at 4:02 AM

JALALABAD, Afghanistan, May 5 (UPI) -- A well-known Afghan warlord has pledged allegiance to al-Qaida chief Osama bin Laden and the Taliban and vowed to join their holy war.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, wanted by the United States, was seen Thursday on a video aired by al-Jazeera television. Referring to the Taliban and the leaders of al-Qaida, he said, "We ask God to help us to do our duty toward them. We hope to join their battle, and we will be at their sides as allies." He was wearing a black turban, the symbol of the Taliban, and carrying a Kalashnikov rifle.

In his televised declaration he claimed that the United States forced the rebels into warfare by not accepting bin Laden's proposal in January of a conditional truce. Washington rejected the proposal, saying it does not negotiate with terrorists.

Twice Afghanistan's prime minister, Hekmatyar fought against the Soviet occupation as leader of the Hezb-e-Islami political party, which he still leads. He is a strong opponent of the new Karzai government for its close relations with the United States and other Western nations.

Classified as a terrorist by Washington, Hekmatyar is believed to be hiding in the mountainous area bordering Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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