Monday, December 10, 2001, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

US bombers raid Laden hideout
Mystery surrounds location of Omar

Islamabad, December 9
US B-52 bombers today battered cave-riddled snow-capped mountains in eastern Afghanistan, looking for terror suspect Osama bin Laden and Taliban supremo Mullah Mohammad Omar as rival anti-Taliban tribal groups negotiated for control of Kandahar amid rising tension.

Shortly after dawn broke over the mountains near Tora Bora, US bombers strafed the area as a rumble of huge explosions rocked the entire area.

Plume of smoke rose above the steep terrains covered with thick forests as the massive bombers unloaded their weapons on positions of fighters loyal to Bin Laden’s Al-Qaida outfit.

Anti-Taliban fighters assembled at the foothills of the mountains to launch an offensive against Bin Laden after sporadic attacks on Al-Qaida positions in the past few days met with a strong resistance.

Northern Alliance commanders Haji Mohammad Zaman and Mohd Amin said they were sure the Saudi-born militant was in the remote area of eastern Afghanistan.

CNN quoted Amin as saying that Bin Laden, leading a band of 1,000 fighters, have dug themselves into the forests of Spin Ghar.

But mystery surrounds the location of Mullah Omar, protector of Bin Laden, who apparently managed to slip out of Kandahar city.

Neither anti-Taliban leaders nor US military officials could confirm the whereabouts of Omar, the one-eye cleric and spiritual mentor of the militia.

But a Pakistani daily, the “News”, quoting Taliban sources said Omar and a group of his hardcore loyalists drove out of Kandahar in a convoy, defying attempts by forces owing allegiance to Afghanistan’s interim head Hamid Karzai to prevent the escape.

As the hunt for Bin Laden and Omar continued, Karzai reached Kandahar where former province Governor Gul Agha held talks with former Mujahideen commander Mullah Naqibullah, the man to whom the Taliban handed over the city after the militia’s surrender.

Karzai is aiming at setting up a power-sharing ‘Shura’ (council) to administer the province. PTI


Six Taliban leaders revolt against Omar

Islamabad, December 9
In the first sign of split in the ranks of the Taliban, six former Taliban ministers and senior diplomats today came out in the open against their beleaguered chief Mullah Mohammad Omar and joined a newly revived Islamic group.

Announcing their decision to part company with the Taliban movement at a press conference here, the dissident leaders said they had asked Omar to review policies about giving sanctuary to Osama bin Laden, but he had not paid heed to it.

They included former Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan Abdul Hakim Mujahid, Deputy Information Minister Abdur Rehman Ahmed Hotak, Deputy Minister for Higher Education Maulvi Arsalan Rehmani, Deputy Minister for Refugees Repatriation Rehmatullah Wahidyar, Deputy Chief of Supreme Court Maulvi Abdul Sattar Siddiqi and former Charge de Affairs to Saudi Arabia Qazi Habibullah Fauzi.

The Taliban dissidents joined the 63-year-old group Da Khudamul Furqan Jamiat (KFJ), headed by Amin Mujaddadi, who recently returned here after years of exile.

Former Taliban Ambassador to Islamabad Mullah Abdul Saleem Zaeef, who was rumoured to join the group, however, stayed away. His aides said that he continued to support Omar and preferred to wait for some more time before taking any steps to come out of Taliban.

This is the first split in the ranks of Taliban after US-led coalition launched attacks against Afghanistan on October 7.

Mujaddadi, who was present during the press conference, claimed that several former Taliban governors, ministers and commanders have pledged support to his group. "Our doors are open for Taliban," he said. PTI


Taliban rule ends?

Islamabad, December 9
Taliban forces handed control of the southeast Afghan province of Zabul to tribal leaders today, bringing their hardline rule of the country to an end, an Afghan news agency said.

“The rule of the Taliban in Afghanistan has totally ended,” the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press said.

The Taliban had agreed to hand over Zabul, along with neighbouring Kandahar and Helmand provinces, under terms negotiated on Thursday with Hamid Karzai, a Pashtun chieftain and the designated head of a new Afghan interim government. Reuters Back


Stand-off in Kandahar resolved: Karzai

Kabul, December 9
A stand-off between rival anti-Taliban commanders in Kandahar has been resolved peacefully, Afghanistan’s new interim leader Hamid Karzai said late today.

The royalist Pashtun chief said that he had brokered successful talks today in Kandahar between Mullah Naqibullah, to whom the Taliban surrendered the city, and Gul Agha, a former governor.

"It was agreed that Gul Agha will be in charge of security and the administration of Kandahar. He will continue his mandate until the nomination of a real administration in Afghanistan," added Karzai, speaking by telephone.

Quetta: Earlier, Afghani-stan’s leader-in-waiting Hamid Karzai today chaired talks in Kandahar between the leaders of two rival factions whose power struggle threatens to return the province to the pre-Taliban chaos, sources said. Karzai hosted two rounds of talks between former Kandahar Governor Gul Agha and the Mullah Naqibullah, a source close to Agha told AFP.

No details about the talks at the military headquarters in Kandahar and at the former headquarters of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar were available, family source said. Further talks were likely to be held tomorrow.

Karzai had brokered a deal late last week to ensure a handover of Taliban’s headquarters to former Mujahedin commander Naqibullah, but the agreement angered Agha, who has since occupied his former official residence in the city. AFP, PTI Back

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