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Afghan Leader Shuffles Commanders

20 July 2004 -- Afghan Transitional Administration Chairman Hamid Karzai has removed three powerful militia leaders from their roles as army commanders and placed them in civilian and police posts, a spokesman for the Afghan leader said today.

According to spokesman Jawed Ludin, Karzai's move is meant to ensure that the presidential election scheduled for 9 October is conducted freely and fairly.

In the shuffle, Ata Mohammad will become governor of the northern Balkh Province, Hazrat Ali will be police chief in the eastern Nangarhar Province, and Khan Mohammed Khan will take over leadership of the police in the southern Kandahar Province.

Also in Afghanistan, security forces reported the capture of a brother-in-law of fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar in an overnight operation in the central province of Uruzgan. An Afghan security officer was killed in the incident.

Ludin said the arrest of Mullah Amanullah may be a step toward capturing Mullah Omar himself, who has been on the run since the Taliban was ousted in late 2001. But the Uruzgan police chief said Mullah Omar is not in the region, and might not even be in Afghanistan.