Wednesday, September 19, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Taliban set terms
Meeting on Laden’s fate put off

ISLAMABAD: The Taliban Information Minister said on Tuesday that Afghanistan does not rule out that Osama bin Laden may have masterminded the attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon, but needs poof before he can be handed over.

“Anyone who is responsible for this act, Osama or not, we will not side with him,” Information Minister Qudrutullah Jamal told Reuters by the telephone from Kabul. “We told them (the Pakistani delegation) to give us proof that he did it, because without that how can we give him up? he said.

Islamabad, September 18
The Taliban have set a few conditions for the extradition of the Saudi fugitive that includes the lifting of UN sanctions against the war-ravaged country.

The conditions set by Taliban chief Mullah Mohammad Omar were communicated to the visiting Pakistani delegation led by ISI chief Lieut Gen Mehmood Ahmad in Kandahar yesterday.

The other conditions include trial of Bin Laden in a neutral country, stopping of military support to the Northern Alliance opposition and resumption of international economic aid to Afghanistan, daily ‘The Nation’ reported today.

A Pakistan delegation that visited Afghanistan in a bid to convince the ruling Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden returned home today and had no plans for a second visit, government officials said.

“They have returned,” Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman Riaz Khan told Retuers. “There is no programme to go back.

Meanwhile, conflicting reports about the whereabouts of Bin Laden in Afghanistan continued to pour in here with one report saying that the Saudi dissident took leave of his 500 suicide fighters or ‘fidayeens’ and fled on horses to an unknown destination.

Kabul: Afghanistan’s highest-ranking Islamic clerics on Tuesday postponed for at least one day a planned Grand Council meeting called to discuss what to do with Saudi-born militant Osama bin Laden, a Taliban official said.

“The meeting will happen either tomorrow or the next day,’’ said a senior Taliban official who declined to be identified.

The official gave no reason for the delay in the meeting, called by Mullah Mohammad Omar, spiritual leader of the purist Taliban, to discuss how to respond to mounting signs that the USA plans a strike on Afghanistan.

It was unclear whether the Shura (council) meeting would discuss surrendering Bin Laden in line with US demands, or even if it had the authority to do so given the reverence that surrounds his chief protector, Mullah Mohammad Omar, the leader of the Taliban.

The landlocked Islamic state has long harboured the multi-millionaire Bin Laden, the prime suspect in last Tuesday’s destruction of the World Trade Center in New York and the attack on Pentagon in Washington.

The Shura of some 1,000 clerics was convened by Mullah Omar, but the reclusive spiritual leader was not expected to attend.

Pakistani officials said it was possible that a Pakistani team in Afghanistan on a mission to convince the ruling Taliban of the danger they face from a possible US attack, might attend or be briefed on results of the Shura.

The Pakistani team, which arrived in Kabul late yesterday, held more than two hours of talks with Mullah Mohammad Hassan Akhond, Deputy Head of the Council of Ministers.

“The talks were good and positive,’’ the Afghan Islamic Press quoted a Taliban spokesman as saying. “A final decision will be taken on all issues by the Council of Clerics.’’

Pakistan ISI chief, Gen Mahmood Ahmed, left the Embassy along with his deputy, a Foreign Ministry official, the Deputy Ambassador and the Defence Attache for talks at an undisclosed destination in the increasingly isolated Afghan capital, said the officials, who declined to be identified.Reuters Back


Give proof, take Laden: ulemas

Kabul, September 18
Osama bin Laden should not be extradited from Afghanistan without concrete proof of his involvement in terrorism, Afghan religious scholars gathered here to decide on the issue told AFP.

“Even if the whole of Afghanistan is devastated we won’t hand him over until there is a solid proof against him,” said Mullah Mohammad Hassan, a representative of Paktika province and one of up to 1,000 clerics expected to take part in the meeting here.

“If the USA is able to provide evidence or proof against him, we will punish him here or will hand him over,” he said.

The hardline stance taken by ulemas, such as these appears to make it unlikely that their meeting, which is expected to get underway tomorrow, will decide to hand over Bin Laden. AFP


Taliban deny call for jehad

Peshawar (Pakistan), September 18
Afghanistan’s Taliban regime today denied reports that Mullah Mohammad Hasan, acting head of the Taliban Council of Ministers, had called for jehad (holy war), against the USA.

“It is not true that Mullah Mohammad Hasan Akhund broadcast a call for jehad against America over (the Taliban) Radio Shariat,’’ a spokesman of Mullah Hasan told the Peshawar-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) agency.

“What he (Mullah Hasan) said was that we waged jehad against the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan and jehad would become a duty if the USA attacks Afghanistan,’’ the spokesman said.

There was nothing new in the Taliban’s stand on jehad, he said. DPA

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