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Former Afghan governor sent 3,000 of his men to Taliban

November 21, 2009 22:00 IST

An Afghan senator, who was once the governor of Helmand province, has claimed that he encouraged 3,000 of his followers to join the ranks of Taliban after he was sacked from his job under pressure from British officials.

Sher Mohammad Akhundzada, former governor of Helmand, was accused of being linked to opium trade and was sacked in 2005 and British soldiers were deployed in the region.

A former Mujahideen, who fought against the Russians, Akhundzada was governor of Helmand from 2001 to 2005 until he was dismissed.

He told The Daily Telegraph that after losing office he encouraged up to 3,000 followers to take up Taliban offers of money, a move that coincided with a huge increase in the number of British deaths in Afghanistan.

In five years before British forces moved into Helmand in 2006, they had suffered five deaths. Since then, the death toll has risen to 235.

"When I was no longer governor, the government stopped paying for the people who supported me. I sent 3,000 of them off to the Taliban because I could not afford to support them but the Taliban was making payments," he said.

He said several people, including his family members, went back to Taliban because they lost respect for government.

"The British bore the brunt of this because the Taliban became the defenders of Helmand, where the local tradition doesn't allow foreigners to go into people's homes," he said.

According to the report, Akhundzada could get his former job back in a reshuffle by President Hamid Karzai.
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