Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Arrested in Afghanistan: An Iranian jihadist 'rejected by the Taliban'

The Guardian-Abdullah had reached the end of a pitifully short career as a Taliban fighter. He had been arrested hours earlier, just 10 days after signing up to the insurgency. "I come from Iran," he said in a quavering voice, wringing his hands nervously. "They told me the Americans had invaded Afghanistan and I should go and fight jihad.

Military and diplomatic sources said they had received numerous reports of Iranians meeting tribal elders in Taliban-influenced areas, bringing offers of military or more often financial support for the fight against foreign forces. The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the meetings took place in Helmand province, where more than 3,000 British troops are based, and neighbouring Nimroz, a lawless desert province bordering eastern Iran.

Abdullah said he had left his home in Kamyaran in the western province of Kurdistan six weeks earlier, telling his family he was going to Tehran to work. Instead he continued hundreds of miles east until he reached the desert city of Zahedan and slipped across the Afghan border. All he carried was an address given him by a jihadi leader named Abdullah Shafi, he said.

Shafi, a Kurdish militant from northern Iraq, is a former leader of Ansar al-Islam, a Taliban-like group with links to al-Qaida. After the US invasion of Iraq in 2003, Shafi became known for despatching suicide bombers to Baghdad. Although Shafi was subsequently expelled from Iran, Abdullah said his organisation is still recruiting fresh militants - like him. Abdullah was sent to a secret training camp near the Iraqi border that he believed was run by the Iranian government. "They gave us weapons, money and accommodation, and made sure we would not be arrested," he said. "Our government doesn't like America. It wants to install a Shia government in Iraq like in Iran. It is doing its best to achieve that." Most graduates at the camp were destined for Iraq or Lebanon, Abdullah said - 19 of his 20 classmates were subsequently sent to Iraq...