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Afghan Warlord Hekmatyar Addresses Rally In Kabul

(L-R) Former Afghan President Hamid Karzai, Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, Abdul Rabb Rasool Sayyaf and Afghanistan Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah walk to attend a ceremony on May 4

KABUL -- Notorious former Afghan warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has addressed a large rally in Kabul, a day after he returned to the capital following more than two decades in self-imposed exile.

Thousands of people attended the rally at Kabul's Ghazi Stadium on May 5, with Hekmatyar's supporters waving the green flags of his group and shouting "Long live Islam" and "Allahu akbar" (God is great).

Hekmatyar's return to Kabul came after his Hezb-e Islami militant group signed a peace agreement with President Ashraf Ghani's government in September 2016.

Hekmatyar called for all insurgent groups fighting the government, including the Taliban, to end the war in Afghanistan, which he said was "imposed" from outside.

"In every province there are mass graves," he said, adding that the continuation of the war will only kill more Afghans.

He also called on the government to fulfill its promises under the peace deal, including the release of hundreds of Hezb-e Islami fighters in Afghan prisons.

The controversial peace deal has been criticized by many Afghans and by Western rights groups, which accuse Hekmatyar's forces of gross human rights violations during Afghanistan's civil war in the 1990s and cite their deadly attacks on U.S. and Afghan forces since the U.S.-led invasion that drove the Taliban from power in 2001.

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