December 14, 2001
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (AP) Representatives of Kandahar's governor visited the city's main hospital, where 13 armed Arab fighters are being treated, but did not approach their ward out of fear the men would attack, a doctor said Friday.
The surgeon, Mohammed Khoram, said the men have threatened to kill themselves and are devotees of Osama bin Laden and the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.
"They're really fundamentalist Muslims, respecting Osama and Mullah Omar," Khoram said. "They say, 'The way we have chosen is right."'
The Arabs, who have been in the hospital for nearly two weeks, are armed with grenades and pistols and have threatened to blow themselves up if anyone other than the medical staff entered their rooms.
Some of them were injured by U.S. bombing or in fighting with Afghan tribal forces opposed to the Taliban, which abandoned its last stronghold, Kandahar, a week ago.
Thousands of Arabs went to Afghanistan to join the cause of jihad, or holy war, and many were affiliated with bin Laden's al-Qaida network, which the United States blames for the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Ghulam Mohammed Afghan, head nurse at Mirwais Hospital, had said all the Arabs at his Kandahar clinic were injured. But Khoram said five or six were uninjured, and most had suffered only flesh wounds that no longer required hospital treatment.
Those who still needed hospital care included one whose right leg was amputated below the knee, one with a leg fracture and another with an arm fracture.
The Arab whose leg was amputated went to the operating theater Friday to have his wound cleaned, Khoram said. The Arabs never bring their weapons to the operating theater, but hold onto them at all other times, he said.
The Arabs, who have not told medical staff what countries they are from, were brought to the hospital by comrades when Kandahar was still in Taliban hands. But it's unclear how they can leave the hospital without facing immediate arrest.
"The security guards will not let them go," Khoram said. "They have no plan about what to do."
The new governor of Kandahar, Gul Agha, has yet to establish firm control over the city and its province, which may explain why he has not dealt with the armed Arabs at the hospital.
Agha's representatives did not approach the Arabs' ward on Friday, Khoram said. The Arabs have forbidden anyone other than medical staff to enter their rooms.
"They don't want to speak," Khoram said. "They're very sad."