The Daily Telegraph

I was a ‘ghost’ under the nose of US forces, says Taliban spokesman

- By James Rothwell and David Millward

‘I lived in Kabul for a long time, right under everyone’s noses. It was quite puzzling for our adversarie­s’

THE Taliban’s spokesman has boasted of how he lived under the noses of US forces in Afghanista­n like a “ghost” in the run-up to the August takeover during a candid newspaper interview.

Speaking to Pakistan’s The Express Tribune, Zabiullah Mujahid said he had an “uncanny” ability to evade US soldiers, who often tried to convince locals to hand him over. “They [US and Afghan national forces] used to think I did not exist,” Mr Mujahid said. “I escaped so many times from their raids and attempts to capture me that they seriously considered that ‘Zabiullah’ was a made-up figure, not a real man who exists.”

Mr Mujahid, who was appointed the Taliban’s spokesman in 2007, claimed he was able to move around Afghanista­n anonymousl­y as he briefed journalist­s on the Taliban’s operations via emails and phone calls. “I managed to move about Afghanista­n freely,” he said.

“I lived in Kabul for a long time, right under everyone’s noses. I roamed the width and breadth of the country.

“I also managed to have first-hand access to the front line, where the Taliban carried out their actions, and up to date informatio­n. It was quite puzzling for our adversarie­s.”

The 43-year-old added that US forces “would often pay off locals to obtain some informatio­n about my whereabout­s”, leading to dozens of operations which all failed to track him down.

In the same interview, Mr Mujahid said he joined the Taliban at the age of 16 and at one point was imprisoned for a six-month period.

He eventually shifted from fighting to journalism and public relations, having worked at the Taliban’s Sarak magazine and a radio station in Paktika.

The disclosure came as the United Nations called for world powers to donate $606 million (£430 million) to Afghanista­n as it warned poverty and hunger were blighting the country following the Taliban takeover and the ensuing end to foreign aid.

Yesterday, an Afghan interprete­r who was unable to board an evacuation flight said he was kidnapped and beaten by the Taliban.

Sharif Karimi, 31, a father of four, was seized, beaten and held in a cell for four days. Appealing to the UK government for help, he told The Times: “Next time you will never see me again. They will kidnap me and kill me.”

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