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    Militant group joins peace process in Herat

    HERAT CITY (PAN): A Taliban leader joined the peace process along with 18 associates in the Chesht-i-Sharif district of western Herat province, officials said on Monday.

    The group members, all residents of the district, turned in 17 weapons to intelligence officials, Muhiuddin Noori, the governor’s spokesman, told Pajhwok Afghan News.

    Led by Syed Zia, the insurgents renounced violence as a result of joint efforts by locals and security forces.

    The district, where the Salma dam is being reconstructed with financial support from India, is located 160 kilometers from Herat City, the provincial capital.

    The surrender of Taliban fighters would help improve security in the district, the governor’s spokesman said. The district has not been included in the list of areas changing hands as part of the second phase of transition.

    There has been a spike in insecurity in recent years in eastern parts of the province, with local officials attributing the unrest to infiltration of militants fleeing operations in other provinces.

    Last year, 10 insurgents were killed, as many wounded and 13 others, including three Taliban leaders, arrested in Herat during joint security operations.

    A large number of militants have joined the reconciliation programme, Noori said. He added 34 groups, comprised of 420 members, joined the process in Herat last year.

    Ghulam Sarwar, the provincial high peace council chief, said all surrendering insurgents had been provided cash assistance, with each group leader receiving $608.766, and member $304.383.

    mds/ma/mud