Saturday, September 22, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Taliban reject US ultimatum
Hand over Laden or share his fate: Bush

Washington, September 21
The USA and Taliban today appeared headed for war as President George W. Bush firmly asked Kabul to hand over Osama bin Laden “immediately” or “share his fate”, a demand rejected by the defiant Afghan militia, which said it was left with no alternative but to declare a holy war against the USA.

As a formidable array of US air force planes and a 14-ship naval taskforce took position at various locations and Washington issued orders to mobilise its crack special forces, Taliban soldiers were deployed on mountain peaks overlooking Pakistan’s deserted Torkham border posts in a war-like situation.

Amid conflicting reports about Laden leaving Afghanistan, Pakistan asked the Taliban leadership to realise the gravity of the situation and take “a prompt decision which is in the interest of Afghanistan and its people and satisfies the concerns and demands of the international community.”

President Bush, in a televised address to the joint session of the US Congress, said evidence gathered since the worst terrorist strikes on the US soil “all point to a collection of loosely affiliated terrorist organisations known as Al-Qaeda... and its leader Osama bin Laden.”

“The Taliban must act and act immediately. They will hand over the terrorists or they will share in their fate,” he said.

Reacting sharply to President Bush’s demand for unconditional handing over of Laden, Taliban Ambassador in Islamabad Mullah Abdul Saleem Zaeef said, “This is not possible. There is no change in our stand towards Osama.”

Mr Bush also listed a series of demands to Afghanistan’s rulers and said, “These are not open to negotiations or discussions.”

The demands are — immediate and permanent closure of all terrorist training camps, handing over every terrorist and every person in their support structure to appropriate authorities and full access to the USA to terrorist training camps, “so we can make sure they are no longer operative”, and release of all foreign nationals, including US citizens “unjustly imprisoned”.

Asked whether the militia would categorise the decision of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to side with the USA in the fight against Laden as hostile act, Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Saleem Zaeef said Islamabad had only agreed to help the USA in finding the culprits behind the terrorist attack on the American cities.

“We do not believe that Pakistan will provide airspace or logistic support to the USA to launch any attack against Afghanistan,” he said.Back


Afghan oppn forces attack Taliban

Kabul, September 21
Fierce fighting raged in northern Afghanistan today as Taliban troops battled opposition forces seeking revenge for the assassination of their leader while taking advantage of the threats of US strikes.

The latest battle broke out yesterday in a region south of Balkh and in Dara-i-Suf in neighbouring Samangan province where the opposition Northern Alliance, headed by Mr Burhanuddin Rabbani, reported the capture of several Taliban posts and several villages, sources said.

There were also reports that the leader of Afghanistan’s Uzbek minority, Gen Rashid Dostum, had concentrated a considerable force near Mazar-i-Sharif to fight the Taliban. Reuters


5,000 reservists called to duty

Washington, September 21
More than 5,000 members of the Air National Guard and Reserves have been ordered to report to active duty, most to fighter units that will fly combat air patrol missions in the USA, the Pentagon said yesterday.

The call-ups were the first of an estimated 35,000 reservists that the military services said would be needed to defend the “homeland” and support relief efforts in New York and Washington after devastating terror attacks on September 11.

But pentagon officials said some of those called up yesterday might be deployed overseas as part of a military campaign against the terrorist network responsible for flying hijacked airliners into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. AFP


USA fears more terrorist attacks
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, September 21
Even as the USA is going ahead with a massive arms build-up to launch retaliatory strikes to punish the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks, it is understood to be taking measures to effectively deny terrorists another opportunity to go on the rampage once the US military action begins.

Well-placed sources here said today American security agencies were busy taking precautions to ward off yet another terrorist strike on American soil when the USA begins its attack on the bases of Osama bin Laden in Afghanistan and other places in the world.

The Americans fear that scores, if not hundreds, of Bin Laden’s associates were still entrenched in the USA. These people could launch some terrorist acts coinciding with the American attacks on Afghanistan to bolster the morale of the Taliban, sources said.

This is believed to be one of the main reasons why the USA is taking so much time in attacking Afghanistan even after President George W Bush and other top-notch members of his administration categorically stated that Bin Laden was the “prime suspect”.

At the same time, it is worth recalling that even after the August 7, 1998, bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, in which Bin Laden’s hand was suspected, the American missile attacks on Afghanistan and Sudan took place only 13 days later.

Meanwhile, according to diplomatic observers, the Americans had two major strategic objectives in the present crisis: (i) to ensure that the conflict does not spill over and suck Muslim countries into the Afghan cauldron and thus make it West versus Muslim war; (ii) the Taliban government is uprooted and a pro-West regime is installed after the Taliban is brought to its knees.Back

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