Tuesday, September 18, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Taliban refuse to hand over Bin Laden

Afghanistan’s Taliban leaders said on Monday that a council of senior Islamic clerics would discuss the fate of Osama bin Laden on Tuesday, the Afghan Islamic Press reported.

Islamabad, September 17
Senior Pakistani officials failed today to persuade the Taliban’s reclusive leader Mullah Mohammad Omar to hand over Saudi-born terror suspect Osama bin Laden to avert US armed retaliation, the AIP news agency said.

The Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press quoted Taliban spokesman Abdul Hai Mutamaen, saying that over three hours of talks between the sides had not resolved the key issue of turning over the multi-millionaire Islamic militant accused of involvement in the September 11 terror attacks on the USA.

“The meeting looked in detail at the aspects of the problem. The talks were positive but I cannot give the details,’’ Mr Mutamaen said. “We are 60 per cent hopeful that conditions will be normal.’’

But on Bin Laden, who the Taliban have termed a “guest’’, Mr Mutamaen reported no progress, “There was no clear discussion on this particular topic.’’

The Pakistan delegation arrived early in the morning in the southern city of Kandahar and went immediately into talks with Taliban Foreign Minister Mullah Maulvi Wakil Ahmad Muttawakil.

The Pakistani officials, including intelligence chief General Mahmood Ahmed, won permission from the United Nations to break a ban on flights to Afghanistan to try to convince the landlocked country’s purist Islamic rulers of the gravity of their situation.

“The delegation is motivating and advising Mullah Omar and the Taliban leadership that they should consider the pros and cons of not cooperating with America and others on matters of terrorism...’’, Interior Minister Moinuddin Haider said during a visit to Kuwait.

“Because if Afghanistan does not do the logical, balanced attitude in this regard it will be a problem for Afghanistan and its people,’’ he said.

The Taliban have previously refused all demands to hand over Bin Laden — the chief suspect in Tuesday’s devastating terror attacks on New York and Washington — saying proof of his involvement in the terror is a prerequisite.

The USA has vowed to punish the perpetrators and all those who protect them.

Bin Laden on Sunday again denied any involvement.

“I have taken an oath of allegiance (to Mullah Omar) which does not allow me to do such things from Afghanistan,’’ he said in a statement faxed by an aide to the Afghan Islamic Press.

Pakistan is one of only three countries to recognise the Taliban government and was a key backer of the purist Islamic movement as it swept to power in the mid-1990s, taking most of the country and ending two decades of civil war.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has promised to cooperate fully with the USA in its fight against global terror.

“We are alive to the gravity of the situation and know that in the lives of nations such situations do arise as require the taking of important decisions,’’ the official APP news agency quoted him as saying on Sunday before his mission left.

The Pakistani diplomatic mission is a last-ditch appeal to the Taliban to try to avert what Washington has vowed will be retaliation by a “mighty giant’’ awakened by the world’s worst terror attack.

Military sources told Reuters that the delegation included Gen Mahmood Ahmed, the head of the country’s intelligence service that is regarded as one of the creators of the Taliban.

He had been in Washington when the terror attacks took place.

The Pakistan diplomacy coincides with a call by Mullah Omar for a war council in Kabul of Islamic clerics to discuss the defence of Afghanistan in the event of US attacks.

Mullah Omar has already said the Taliban would declare a Jihad, or holy war, against the USA if it attacked and also against any country that gives Washington assistance.

In a sign of mounting nervousness among the purist Taliban, the movement appealed at the weekend to the Organisation for Islamic Conference (OIC) and Muslim states for help in case of an attack by the USA, a Taliban official in Kandahar told Reuters.

The decision to appeal for help from the OIC was taken at a special meeting of the Supreme Council of the Taliban convened in Kandahar late on Saturday with the reclusive Omar in the chair. The OIC does not recognise the Taliban. Reuters


Laden wanted dead or alive: Bush

Washington, September 17
Invoking the rough justice of the American frontier, President George W. Bush said today the USA wants Osama bin Laden “dead or alive.” He made the comment at Pentagon after an hour-long meeting with US Defence Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to discuss the military’s plans for mobilizing reservists to beef up domestic defences against terrorism. AFP


Taliban officials fleeing Kabul

Kabul, September 17
Officials from Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban government have started to flee the capital, Kabul, amid growing expectations of US attacks, witnesses said today.

Taliban officials and their families were seen heading out of the city for the countryside, but it was not clear if this was under instruction from their spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, they said.

Those fleeing appeared mainly to be junior commanders and officials. The majority of the leadership is based in the southern city of Kandahar.

Witnesses said hundreds of ordinary residents of the capital were also packing up to leave. “Better leave now before you are trapped,’’ said a Kabul resident. Reuters 


Diplomats scramble for Indian visas

Islamabad, September 17
Fearing reprisal in the event of US military action in Afghanistan, and Pakistan, diplomatic corps, mostly from western countries, and their families in Islamabad scrambled for Indian visas and getting ready to leave the country at a short notice in the case of an emergency.

Diplomats of the USA, the UK, EU and other countries have been approaching the Indian High Commission for the past few days for visas for themselves and their families, visa officials in the Indian High Commission said here today.

Diplomatic staff of the countries like Sweden, Belgium and Norway had already obtained Indian visas. PTIBack

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