11 September 2001>News Stories>A Demand for Taliban to Hand Over bin Laden or Risk U.S. Attack

A Demand for Taliban to Hand Over bin Laden or Risk U.S. Attack
JOHN F. BURNS with CHRISTOPHER S. WREN . NYTimes . 17 September

Pakistan, Sept. 17
Pakistan is dispatching a delegation on Monday to its neighbor Afghanistan to tell the ruling Taliban to hand over Osama bin Laden, the Saudi-born millionaire suspected of organizing the terrorist attacks last Tuesday in New York and Washington, or face the consequences.

The small delegation of military and political officials has not indicated whether it will go to Kabul, the Afghan capital, or to Kandahar, the seat of the Taliban, the militantly Islamic group that now controls almost all of the country.

The delegation will deliver a "swift" deadline for the Taliban to turn over Mr. bin Laden, a resident of Afghanistan since 1996, or risk retaliatory attacks by the West and its allies.

The delegation does not expect to meet the Taliban's paramount leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, who is the spiritual as well as temporal leader of the militant movement.

Mr. bin Laden, in a statement attributed to him and broadcast by the Al-Jazeera satellite channel in the Persian Gulf state of Qatar, denied involvement in the terrorist attacks last week, which left more than 5,000 Americans missing or dead in New York and Washington.

"I stress that I have not carried out this act, which appears to be carried out by individuals with their own motivation," said the statement, which was issued today. Mr. bin Laden has issued similar denial before.

The Pakistani ambassador to Washington, Maleeha Lodhi, said in an interview with CNN's "Late Edition" that her country's delegation would urge the Taliban to "hand over the person that they are harboring, Osama bin Laden, so that he is brought to justice" in accordance with the demand of the international community.

"We are responding to the call of the international community, as well as the United States," Ambassador Lodhi said.

She said the delegation first had to secure the permission of the sanctions committee of the United Nations Security Council, which has imposed travel and other restrictions on Afghanistan because of its refusal to surrender Mr. bin Laden.

The delegation is being led by a senior official in Pakistan's military intelligence apparatus, another official here said. Pakistani military intelligence is known to have supported and financed the Taliban since 1994 and is believed to know about Mr. bin Laden's movements and activities.

The editors of a militant Islamic publication in Afghanistan reported tonight that the Taliban was saying that Mr. bin Laden was "no longer a guest" and had left Afghan territory. There was no independent confirmation of the report.

In return for its pledge of "full cooperation" with the United States effort to get Mr. bin Laden and close down his organization, Pakistan is asking for American aid to revive its battered economy and for Washington's intercession with international financial lending institutions, among other matters.

Pakistan is one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban as the government of Afghanistan. The other two countries, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, have faced pressure from Washington to sever their diplomatic links with the Taliban