x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Ex-Taliban envoy 'bound for UAE'

Former ambassador to Pakistan and Guantanamo Bay inmate says he wants to escape persecution and lead 'a secure life'.

DUBAI // A former Taliban statesman has claimed he is emigrating from Afghanistan to the UAE to escape persecution at home.

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, former ambassador to Pakistan and inmate of Guantanamo Bay, said in a letter to the Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) he wanted to move to Dubai for a secure life.

"Due to security reasons, I have been in search for the last two years to live a peaceful life in these areas or countries," he wrote. "My travel to Dubai is neither at the directives or with the support of anyone, nor on anyone's advice."

Mr Zaeef also wrote about his hopes for peace in Afghanistan, but said it was beyond his abilities to usher it in.

Earlier media reports claimed Mr Zaeef left the country after US forces twice attempted to raid his home in Kabul over allegations of involvement in an international terror plot. But a spokesman for the international coalition in Afghanistan said they were unaware of any alleged raids on his home.

The Dubai Naturalisation and Residency Department could not be contacted, but Afghanistan's embassy in the UAE said it was not aware of the presence of Mr Zaeef in the country.

Mr Zaeef was the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan at the time of the September 11 attacks. He was arrested in Islamabad in late 2001, then detained at Guantanamo Bay for four years.