18 Afghan opposition commanders surrender to government

KABUL, Jun 13, 2005 (Xinhua via COMTEX) -- Eighteen opposition commanders affiliated with former prime minister and dissident warlord Gulbudin Hekmatyar have laid down their arms and joined the government, a state-run newspaper reported Monday.

"Eighteen commanders of Hekmatyar-led Islamic party surrendered to the government in Paktia's provincial capital Gerdiz on Sunday, " Anis newspaper reported.

All of them have expressed their readiness to defend the government against enemies, said the report.

Dozens of anti-government militants, including low and medium ranking Taliban leaders as well as supporters of the former prime minister, have joined the peace process under a general amnesty announced by Afghan government in last November.

However, Taliban's elusive chief Mullah Mohammad Omar and Hekmatyar, who termed the US-backed Afghan leader Hamid Karzai as "US puppet," have rejected the amnesty and called for Jihad or holy war till the withdrawal of foreign troops from Afghanistan.