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Afghan Warlord Hekmatyar Calls For Peace In Public Speech


FILE: Supporters of Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, the leader of Hizb-i-Islami, attend a meeting in the western Afghan city of Herat.

Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, one Afghanistan's most notorious warlords, has called on the Taliban to stop fighting government troops and begin peace talks.

"I invite you to join the peace caravan and stop the pointless, meaningless and unholy war," Hekmatyar, a former prime minister, told a gathering of Afghan politicians and his supporters in Laghman Province on April 29.

"I want a free, proud, independent, and Islamic Afghanistan," Hekmatyar added, in his first public appearance in nearly two decades.

Hekmatyar, the founder and current leader of the Hezb-e Islami political party, signed a peace deal with the Afghan government in September

In the deal, Hekmatyar's fighters vowed to lay down their weapons in exchange for a prisoner release.

He also praised Afghan security forces during his speech and said fighting against them and the country's government is "senseless and illegitimate."

The UN Security Council ended sanctions against Hekmatyar in February, clearing the way for him to return to Afghanistan after being in exile for nearly 20 years.

The government's deal with Hekmatyar was criticized by many Afghans and human rights groups as being too lenient for someone accused of violence and widespread abuses -- he has been dubbed the "Butcher of Kabul" for fighting that led to thousands of civilian deaths in the Afghan capital in the early 1990s.

The United States had designated Hekmatyar a "global terrorist" after he declared jihad on foreign forces fighting Islamists in Afghanistan.

Based on reporting by Reuters and dpa

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