Paris mayor leads tribute to slain Afghan commander

Ahmad Shah Massoud commemorated in the French capital 20 years after his death

Paris paid homage to late Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo and Ahmad Massoud hold an image of late Afghan commander Ahmad Shah Massoud Courtesy Office of Paris Mayor

The city of Paris paid tribute to an Afghan commander who was assassinated by Al Qaeda days before the 9/11 attacks 20 years ago.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Saturday named a pathway in the Champs-Elysees gardens after Ahmad Shah Massoud, Afghanistan’s national hero.

Commander Massoud’s son, Ahmad Massoud, visited Paris and was the guest of honour for the unveiling ceremony that was attended by other senior Afghan politics figures – including former president Hamid Karzai and Chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation Abdullah Abdullah.

The event marked the 20th anniversary of his father's visit to France – his only trip to the West.

Addressing the event on Saturday, Ahmad Massoud said his father was "the symbol of fraternity between Afghanistan and France".

The younger Massoud’s high-profile visit played out while Afghan government and Taliban officials attempted to reach an agreement on the country’s future.

Talks in the Qatari capital, Doha, have made little progress, despite a plan for the United States to withdraw the last of its troops by the beginning of May.

Mr Abdullah is the man likely to lead the forthcoming peace talks with the Taliban.

The Taliban on Wednesday rejected a proposal by Afghan President Ashraf Ghani to hold elections later this year.

The commander's son recently voiced concerns for the future of his country and for the success of the Doha peace talks with the extremist group against which his father fought.

"I was one of the very few who was very sceptical of the talks in Doha," Mr Massoud told the AFP news agency.

"From the very beginning I was pretty sure it was a complete mistake and it was not going to work," he said. A "rushed decision" for the deal between the US and Taliban, he said, had "destroyed the balance of negotiation".

"The peace talks and laughter, and hugs and handshakes between Americans and the Taliban, it doesn't mean that it is peace for Afghanistan," he said.

"Those handshakes, those hugs and laughter must be between Afghans as well."

A guerrilla leader who fought against Soviet forces for a decade following the invasion in 1979, the elder Massoud was killed in a suicide bombing on September 9, 2001.

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 21, 1997 Afghan Commander Ahmad Shah Massoud shares a private moment with his eight-year old son Ahmed, on August 21, 1997, in his house in the Panjshir Valley.  / AFP / Emmanuel DUNAND

Mr Karzai, then Afghan president, declared the fallen commander a national hero, with Massoud Day observed on the day of his assassination.

Known as the Lion of Panjshir after he successfully defended the Panjshir valley from Soviet forces, Massoud was often likened to other revolutionary fighters such as Che Guevara and Ho Chi Minh.

Like Che Guevara, the life of Afghanistan’s national hero continues to inspire devotion beyond his country’s borders.

UAE-based luxury perfume maker Al Ghazal Perfumes last week unveiled a new scent in tribute to the guerrilla fighter.

The fragrance, which comes in a bottle emblazoned with an image of Commander Massoud, combines the scent of bergamot with woody, aromatic and citrus base notes.

The Sharjah-based company said it had created the fragrance “solely for the purpose of honouring his achievements, his loyalty and love for his country”.

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