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December 7, 2001
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Taliban surrenders Kandahar; Omar missing

K J M Varma in Islamabad

The most repressive Islamic regime in Afghanistan which bred international terrorism finally collapsed on Friday with the Taliban surrendering its only remaining bastion Kandahar, but the whereabouts of its leader Mullah Mohammed Omar were not known.

The capitulation of the Taliban, which ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist invoking strict Islamic tenets for five years, came exactly two months after the United States launched military operation to flush out terrorists and their harbourers in the country.

Seven Taliban and Al Qaeda, Saudi extremist Osama bin Laden's terrorist network, fighters were killed by US marines near Kandahar in their first offensive ground operation while intense fighting was on in the eastern mountain region of Tora Bora where Laden's associates are believed to be holed up.

As opposition forces entered the strategic city after the Taliban surrendered, there were reports of looting and chaos.

"The Taliban's authority is effectively finished. There is no longer a situation where we need to push Taliban forces out of Kandahar," Afghan interim government leader Hamid Karzai said while speaking to the international media over satellite phone.

Stating that Mullah Omar was missing, Karzai said he would be arrested if found.

Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press, quoting a member of the tribal council that took power in Kandahar after the Taliban withdrew, said Omar disappeared after negotiating the handover.

"Mullah Mohammed Omar is not in Kandahar and no one knows his whereabouts," he told AIP from Kandahar by satellite phone.

US-led coalition spokesman Kenton Keith, however, said Omar was still believed to be in Kandahar and opposition forces are close to nabbing him.

"The opposition forces are closing in on him and we expect at some point, within a reasonable period, he will be in the hands of opposition forces and we hope to cooperate in bringing him to justice," he told reporters in Islamabad.

As the US opposed any arrangement that allowed Mullah Omar to remain free and 'live in dignity' in the region, Karzai said if the Taliban leader is 'linked to terrorism and there is a case against him he must face trial and justice'.

Karzai said many of the Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters had fled Kandahar with weapons and may have headed for the mountains.

There were also reports of Taliban surrendering other towns such as Spin Boldak and Lashkargah.

In another development, anti-Taliban forces claimed to have captured the main base of terror suspect Osama bin Laden in the eastern region of Tora Bora where fierce fighting and heavy bombing raged around a cave hideout occupied Al Qaeda fighters.

Bin Laden is in the area of the Melawa mountains in Tora Bora and Afghan tribal forces are combing the hills for him and his fighters, anti-Taliban commander Haji Mohammed Zaman was quoted as saying.

The Taliban has claimed that 10,000 people, mainly its fighters, have been killed in the two months of US strikes on the city of Kandahar.

PTI

America's War on Terror: The Complete Coverage
The Attack on US Cities: The Complete Coverage

The Terrorism Weblog: Latest Stories from Around the World

External Link:
For further coverage, please visit www.saja.org/roundupsept11.html

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