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Bin Laden Cornered

By Vision Reporter

Added 14th November 2001 03:00 AM

ISLAMABAD, Wednesday - An anti-Taliban revolt said to be gathering pace in the militia’s strongholds in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday has boosted the prospects of the United States hunting down its most wanted man — Osama bin Laden.

ISLAMABAD, Wednesday - An anti-Taliban revolt said to be gathering pace in the militia’s strongholds in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday has boosted the prospects of the United States hunting down its most wanted man — Osama bin Laden.

ISLAMABAD, Wednesday - An anti-Taliban revolt said to be gathering pace in the militia’s strongholds in southern Afghanistan on Wednesday has boosted the prospects of the United States hunting down its most wanted man — Osama bin Laden. “The chances of him being betrayed, sold out or whatever are extremely high,” Afghanistan expert Ahmed Rashid told Reuters from the Pakistani city of Lahore. The U.S.-led alliance searching for bin Laden, prime suspect for the September 11 attacks in which hijacked airliners slammed into the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, has put a US$5 million price on the head of the Saudi-born militant. “There is tremendous ferment across the south now,” Rashid said. “People are turning against the Taliban and there have been defectors from the Taliban who can be interviewed for a mine of information and intelligence on where bin Laden is.” British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw said following the withdrawal of Taliban forces from large swathes of the country, bin Laden and top lieutenants from his al Qaeda network were believed to be “in the key Taliban area around Kandahar,” home of Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. He said this would make efforts by U.S. President George W. Bush to capture bin Laden easier. “They are more confined than they were, and we remain absolutely determined to break up the al Qaeda network and — to pick up President Bush’s phrase — either bring bin Laden to justice, or justice to bin Laden,” Straw told reporters at the United Nations headquarters in New York. If an uprising in the south takes hold, analysts say, worried members of the Taliban might well try to save their skins — and earn $5 million — by giving information betraying bin Laden. Opposition leaders and local people fleeing into Pakistan from southern Afghanistan say the local population — mainly ethnic Pashtuns like the Taliban — is rising up against the fundamentalist militia even in their powerbase in Kandahar. “We are receiving reports of uprisings in Kandahar,” said opposition Northern Alliance Interior Minister Yunis Qanuni. The Taliban withdrew from the capital Kabul on Tuesday, heading for the south where their support is strongest. But reports say that even there their grip is loosening. Tribal leader Hamid Karzai told Reuters from inside central Afghanistan by satellite phone that while Kandahar was still in Taliban hands, anti-Taliban forces had taken the airport with help from locals people and Taliban deserters. “At the airport some elements within the Taliban declared it a non-Taliban area and were joined by the people,” he said. Although the Taliban’s strongest backing comes from Pashtuns, many Pashtun groups are against them and the support of others is tenuous and likely to evaporate if the militia seems to be crumbling. Many Pashtuns also hate the Arab and Chechen fighters that make up the backbone of al Qaeda forces. Exiled mujahideen commanders in Pakistan say many in the south are ready to join the anti-Taliban struggle. “We have people over there, between 10,000 and 12,000, who are willing to fight, who are ready to go to war. But we need resources like weapons, rocket launchers and vehicles,” said Commander Mohammad Zali, a former mujahid, or holy warrior, who comes from Kandahar. Rashid said an uprising in the south would cause problems for bin Laden’s foreign fighters. “The Arabs cannot survive without local support,” he said. “The logistics, food, water, the terrain, the languages — they need local support. If that is being eroded then they can’t survive.” Ends

Bin Laden Cornered

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