Afghanistan

'Butcher of Kabul' shows his face after 20 years in exile

Warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar speaking in Mihtarlam city, the capital of eastern Laghman province, Afghanistan, on Saturday.

Warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar speaking in Mihtarlam city, the capital of eastern Laghman province, Afghanistan, on Saturday.  (AP Photos/Mohammad Anwar Danishyar)

Afghan warlord and former prime minister Gulbuddin Hekmatyar has urged the Taliban to lay down its weapons and join a "caravan of peace."

Returning to public life after more than 20 years in exile, Hekmatyar told militants to "stop the pointless, meaningless and unholy war" and "join hands to… bring peace in Afghanistan."

Known widely as the 'Butcher of Kabul,' Hekmatyar was accused of killing thousands of people when his fighters fired on civilian areas of the Afghan capital during the 1992-96 civil war.

The 69-year-old, who leads the militant group Hizb-i-Islam, later fled Kabul after the Taliban came to power in 1996 and was designated as a "global terrorist" by the U.S.

During his time in hiding, he claimed British troops were deployed to Afghanistan "to please the White House" and described Prince Harry as a "jackal" who "kills innocent Afghans while he is drunk."

In September, Hekmatyar struck a peace deal with Afghanistan's president, Ashraf Ghani, paving the way for his return to the country and prompting the U.N. to remove his name from its Islamic State and Al Qaeda sanctions list.

Speaking publicly for the first time since the end of his exile, Hekmatyar told followers: "I want a free, proud, independent and Islamic Afghanistan."

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