Johannesburg, South Africa — Former South African President Nelson Mandela backtracked from his unconditional support for the war in Afghanistan Wednesday, saying his original views may have been "one-sided and overstated."
Mandela, who has assumed the role of Africa's elder statesman and global peacemaker since leaving office in 1999, was sharply criticized for his remarks by South Africa's Muslim community.
"Subsequent discussions with our family, friends, and advisers have convinced us that our view may one-sided and overstated," Mandela said in a statement.
"It was pointed out to us that such unreserved support for the war in Afghanistan gives the impression that we are insensitive to and uncaring about the suffering inflicted upon the Afghan people and country," Mandela said.
During Mandela's visit to Washington in November he told U.S. President George W. Bush that he gave his unconditional support to the war effort.
In December Mandela visited a mosque in the coastal city of Durban and reiterated his support for the war. He said Osama bin Laden should be captured and tried for the attacks and that the Al-Qaeda network should be destroyed, the South African Press Agency reported.
His comments were attacked by leaders of the South African Muslim community who said Mandela should not have labeled bin Laden a terrorist since he had not been formally convicted.
"The labeling of Osama bin Laden as the terrorist responsible for those acts before he had been tried and convicted could also be seen as undermining some of the basic tenants of the rule of law," Mandela said in the statement.
The Nobel Prize winner emphasized that his opposition to terrorism remains unflinching and that those responsible for the Sept. 11 attacks on America must be "apprehended and brought to trial without inflicting suffering on innocent people."
Mandela, 83, spent nearly 30 years in prison under South Africa's apartheid regime and was released in 1990. He won the Nobel Prize for bringing a peaceful end to apartheid.