One of the five freed Taliban leaders, Noorulallah Noori, centre,  smiling upon reaching Doha on May 31 and meeting members of the Taliban political office.

By Salman Siddiqui/Staff Reporter

The five freed Taliban leaders now living in Qatar gave assurances yesterday that they would not violate an agreement made between the State of Qatar and the Afghan Taliban.

Under a prisoner exchange deal between the US and the Taliban, five of the group’s  leaders, who had been detained for 13 years in Guantanamo Bay, were handed over to a delegation from Qatar on May 31 and then flown into Doha. At the exact time, American soldier Sgt Bowe Bergdahl, held captive by the Taliban since June 2009, was handed over to a US Special Forces team in Khost, Afghanistan.

Yesterday was the first time the five freed Taliban leaders made any official statement in Qatar where they are now being hosted.

Recently,  criticism was made in a section of the international press regarding the deal, with some commentators speculating that the released leaders would use their time in their new home in Qatar to allegedly plan attacks on US-led forces in Afghanistan and perhaps in other parts of the world.

However, the latest official message appears to give out an assurance to the entire world that none of these speculations were true and, in fact, the Taliban leaders would remain “loyal” to the agreement.

“We want to assure all stakeholders that we are steadfast and loyal to the agreement between the Islamic Emirate and State of Qatar that was made specifically for our release (from Guantanamo Bay),” they said.

The statement, however, did not spell out the exact terms of the agreement between the Taliban and Qatar. It makes no mention of the restrictions on their movements within  Qatar or the international travel ban, which US officials have said would be placed on them for a complete one year.

The message was given on behalf of the entire group and was not attributed to any one particular leader among the five released Taliban members - Mullah Mohamed Fazil, Mullah Noorulallah Noori, Mullah Khairullah Khairkhuwa, Mullah Abdul Haq Waseeq and Maulvi Mohamed Nabi Umari.

They mentioned their special gratitude for the State of Qatar.

“We are grateful to the State of Qatar which made sincere efforts for our release and hosted us.”

The message was released just after the Friday prayers in Doha. At the onset of their message released in the Urdu language, they thanked the Almighty Allah for setting them free.

“In the name of Allah, the Most Merciful and the Most Gracious. Firstly, we thank the Almighty Allah who granted us freedom through his special blessings upon us after about 13 years of incarceration.

“We think that it is necessary that we thank Almighty Allah first, then our Ameerul Momineen Mullah Mohamed Omar Mujahid Hifzullah, the Islamic Emirate’s advisory council, political office (in Doha), all office-bearers and the mujahedeen.

“Also, we want to thank the people and all Muslims, especially to every person who tried to get us released or prayed for our release or expressed happiness at our release. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

In the end, they prayed for the release of all the Taliban prisoners.



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