Tags: Taliban | Prepare | for | U.S. | Retaliation

Taliban Prepare for U.S. Retaliation

Wednesday, 12 September 2001 12:00 AM

Several Taliban officials, interviewed by United Press International, said they had scattered their troops in the mountains, away from major cities. They also hid their few remaining planes and mounted aircraft guns on roofs in Kabul and Kandahar cities.

"The United States has no reason to attack Afghanistan but we are taking no chances," said a Taliban official.

The Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, had earlier denied reports that terrorism suspect Osama bin Laden was behind the attacks.

"The Taliban or Osama bin Laden have nothing to do with it," said Omar, mentioning the Saudi dissident for the first time in an official message since 1996 when bin Laden came to Afghanistan.

Although there was no direct comment from bin Laden himself, a Pakistani newspaper - Awsaf - carried a report from its stringer in Kandahar saying that the fugitive appeared pleased when he heard the news.

"He strongly denied his involvement but was obviously pleased to receive the news," the report said.

Officials at Taliban headquarters in Kandahar said they fear stories like this could provoke the United States into launching an attack on Taliban targets.

They said the Americans might not wait for confirmation and punish them to "please the media and the American public," said one Taliban official.

"This was how they reacted after the embassy bombing in 1998," the official said, in reference to the bombing of two U.S. embassies in East Africa that killed more than 220 people.

"They bombed several places inside Afghanistan although, despite our denials," the spokesman said, adding, "We fear the Americans will repeat themselves."

Hours after the tragic incidents in the United States, the anti-Taliban United Front sent its planes to Kabul, firing rockets at an arms depot near Kabul's airport.

They withdrew after facing a barrage of anti-aircraft shells from the ground.

Meanwhile, other newspapers in Pakistan carried reports about possible retaliatory actions from the United States. They predicted that this time the Americans might want to launch a combined air-and-ground attack to ensure they succeed in eliminating the targets.

The U.S. cruise missiles, fired after the 1998 bombings, failed to cause any serious damage to bin Laden or his Al-Qaida group.

The reports predicted that instead of sending their own troops, the Americans might urge Pakistan to punish the Taliban, this placing the country in a difficult situation.

Pakistan is one of the only three countries - besides Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates - that recognizes the Taliban regime.

Copyright 2001 by United Press International. All rights reserved.

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Several Taliban officials, interviewed by United Press International, said they had scattered their troops in the mountains, away from major cities. They also hid their few remaining planes and mounted aircraft guns on roofs in Kabul and Kandahar cities. The United...
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2001-00-12
Wednesday, 12 September 2001 12:00 AM
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