KANDAHAR, Afghanistan -- The Taliban defense and justice ministers and several other high-ranking leaders of the ousted ruling militia surrendered to the new Afghan government but were allowed to go free and will not be turned over to the United States, a Kandahar commander said Wednesday.
Jalal Khan, a close associate of Kandahar Gov. Gul Agha, told The Associated Press the defecting Taliban had met officials in the Kandahar government and received general amnesty after recognizing the nation's new interim administration headed by Prime Minister Hamid Karzai.
They have been allowed to go back to their homes and live with their families, Khan said.
"Those men who have surrendered are our brothers and we have allowed them to live in a peaceful manner. They will not be handed over to America," Khan said. "However, they will not participate in politics."
They include Mullah Ubaidullah, the defense minister, and Nooruddin Turabi -- the one-eyed, one-legged justice minister who imposed some of the Taliban's harshest edicts.
Others are Abdul Haq, former security chief of Herat province, an ancient cultural crossroads where the Taliban's crude, extreme Islamic rule was never well-accepted, the minister of mines, Mullah Saadudin, and senior officials Raees Abdul Wahid, Abdul Salam Rakti, and Mohammad Sadiq.
Negotiations on Taliban surrenders have frustrated the U.S.-led coalition, especially the apparent escape last week of leader Mullah Mohammed Omar who reportedly had been surrounded in the mountainous Baghran district north of Kandahar.
Marine Lt. James Jarvis, in a daily briefing to reporters at the Kandahar airport where more than 300 al-Qaida and Taliban prisoners are being detained, voiced no objection to the release of the former Taliban officials. "We're not in the business of determining who should and should not be in custody right now," Jarvis said.
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