Both Talibs and relatives of Afghani Pushtu leader in Pakistan's city of Quetta, Hamed Karzai, denied reports of his arrest that had appeared in local and western mass media. 46-year-old Karzai was a well-known "field commander" and held the rank of Afghanistan's deputy foreign minister in the first mojahedeens' Government ruling in the country until the Taliban seized power in 1996. He is one of the leaders of the Popalzai, the largest Pushtu tribe populating Afghanistan's southern provinces, where the Taliban's positions are particularly strong. Hamid Karzai's brother Ahmad Vali told journalists in Quetta that he had talked with him by a satellite telephone on Friday. According to Vali, his brother "is a safe place in one of Afghanistan's provinces". 25 days ago Karzai, supporter of Afghanistan's former king Zahir Shah, who belongs to the same Pushtu tribe, crossed Pakistan's border with Afghanistan to meet leaders of various Pushtu tribes with the aim of winning their support for the country's ex-monarch. According to Ahmad Vali, the Talibs surrounded Karzai and his supporters on Thursday near the village of Dehravad in the Uruzgan province where he was holding talks with the leaders of the local Pushtu tribes on convening the Loya Jirgah (a national congress of the country's elders and people's representatives). Karzai managed to escape but ten of his supporters were arrested by the Talibs. Amir Khan Muttaki, Taliban's Education Minister, denied reports on execution of the detained Karzai's supporters. He said that no decision on their punishment had yet been taken by the authorities. The Afghan Islamic Press news agency reported that four US helicopters had tried to evacuate Karzai and his supporters from the Uruzgan province but failed to land near Dehravad. The Taliban-controlled news agency also alleged that Karzai and his men had been brought into Afghanistan by US helicopters. The Afghan Islamic Press also claimed that the group was armed and intended to incite an uprising in the province. According to the Pakistan Observer newspaper, six of Karzai's supporters were killed in the fight near Dehravad. Taliban's Consul General in Peshawar, Najibullah, denied reports about an alleged uprising in Uruzgan.
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