11 September 2001>News Stories>Taleban discuss Bin Laden's fate

Taleban discuss Bin Laden's fate
BBCNews . 18 September

LONDON, Sept. 18

Many Pakistanis oppose US involvement in Afghanistan

Afghanistan's ruling Taleban are due to decide whether to hand over Osama Bin Laden.

Pakistani leaders have warned the Taleban's spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar that unless he surrenders Bin Laden, a prime suspect in the destruction of the World Trade Center in New York, he risks a devastating US strike.

Talks are continuing on Tuesday between a Pakistani delegation and the Taleban as a special session of 1,000 senior Afghan Islamic clerics, the Shura, called to discuss Bin Laden's fate, was postponed for at least a day, according to a Taleban official.

Bin Laden: Wanted "dead or alive" by President Bush

A senior Taleban leader on Monday announced a jihad, or holy war against the US, but Taleban authorities later fiercely denied the claim, saying a jihad would only be declared if the US attacked.

In other developments:
  • An estimated 4,000 Afghan refugees defy Pakistan border closures with 3-4,000 expected daily
  • Two more people in the United States are detained as "material witnesses", taking the number of people detained for questioning in the investigation so far to 49
  • According to the latest figures, 5,422 people are still missing in New York and 201 are confirmed dead, 135 of whom have been identified
  • The FBI investigates more than 40 attacks on Muslims
  • New York's stock exchanges close on the first day of trading since the attacks, with the benchmark Dow Jones stock index losing 7% of its value - the largest one-day fall in its history.
Bin Laden and the Taleban have denied any involvement in the US attacks on New York and the Pentagon a week ago.

President George W Bush said on Monday he wanted Bin Laden "dead or alive".

The Taleban have always refused to hand over the exiled Saudi-born militant Bin Laden, who has been living under their protection since 1996.

However, BBC correspondent Kate Clark says that there is still a possibility that the Taleban, fearing for their own regime, may hand him over.

It would be a huge climbdown, but public endorsement by the clerics might make it possible.

Thousands of ordinary Afghans have been speaking with their feet, fleeing towns and cities in fear of US strikes.

Pakistan effectively closed its borders on Monday as tens of thousands of Afghans streamed toward the frontier.

But much of the Afghan-Pakistan border lies in remote areas, and it is virtually impossible for the Pakistanis to prevent people coming in.

Thousands have already crossed near the Balouch city of Quetta, and the UN is now moving tents and food supplies to that area.

In addition, extra UN staff are being moved to locations near the Afghan border where aid officials are already overburdened with more than 2.5 million Afghan refugees from civil war and drought.

Meanwhile, Mr Bush has called for an end to violence against Muslims in the United States over the past week.

In a visit to a mosque, Mr Bush condemned what were described as revenge attacks on Muslims and members of some ethnic minorities.

European leaders are heading to Washington for talks with Mr Bush this week.

Russian military on alert in Tajikistan amid fears of a Taleban strike

French President, Jacques Chirac arrives on Tuesday, and will be followed UK Prime Minister Tony Blair later in the week. Both leaders will be back in Europe for a European Union summit on Friday.

US Secretary of State Colin Powell said that the international coalition to fight terrorism was coming together.

Pakistan has already pledged to provide the US with support and, although the government will not spell out exactly what this means, Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar said he could not rule out the idea of basing foreign troops in Pakistan if the delegation's mission failed.

As the consultations went ahead, Reuters news agency quoted a Pakistani army captain as saying the Taleban had moved a large number of weapons, including missiles, to positions near the Pakistani border.

The Afghan rulers have warned that they might attack any country that offers assistance to the United States.