UNION CITY — As news emerged last week that former Afghan guerrilla leader Abdul Haq was executed by the Taliban, his 16-year-old son and crowds of others began mourning half a world away.
Abdul Majeed Arsala, a junior in high school in Union City, has been surrounded by hundreds of Afghans and others who have gathered to mourn Haq’s death, said Rona Popal, an organizer from the Afghan Coalition in Fremont, the nation’s largest Afghan community.
Arsala has lived in Union City for the past two years with Haq’s nephew, Khushal Arsala.
“This is not just my family’s tragedy, but the tragedy of the nation,” Khushal Arsala told The Oakland Tribune. “It is a loss for humanity.”
Haq was hanged Friday at the Rishkore barracks near Kabul after sneaking into Taliban-held territory to rally Afghan tribal leaders and others to form a new government. He was a member of Afghanistan’s majority Pashtun tribe and did not belong to the northern alliance. He was seen as a key to U.S. efforts to persuade Pashtun leaders to abandon the Taliban.
Haq, 43, had been a leader in Afghan resistance against the Soviet Union’s 1980s invasion.
U.S. officials say they knew of Haq’s mission, but neither endorsed nor supported it. Washington has confirmed it ordered airstrikes to try to save Haq, but that they were too late.
Abdul Majeed Arsala moved to the Bay Area after witnessing his mother and young brother being gunned down in their home in 1999. The assassins were aiming for Haq.
Although suspicion for those killings fell on the Taliban, Haq at the time said he had no proof of who might have been behind the killings.
”(Haq) is someone who we admire so much, it is just an honor to be in his family,” said Mohammad Arsala, Haq’s cousin in Hayward. “He gave every sacrifice he could for his country. He lost his foot, he lost his family and, most importantly, the ultimate sacrifice of his life.”
A memorial will be held Sunday for Haq at a mosque in Hayward. Taliban officials initially told the family they would hand over the body for burial in Pakistan, but family members later were told Haq had been buried in his home village of Surkhrud.