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Friday, 2 November, 2001, 18:04 GMT
Taleban hunt key rebel leader
The Taleban have begun a massive manhunt for a rebel leader who is on an undercover mission in central Afghanistan.


He is alive, he told me everything is fine, but our family is very worried

Hamid Karzai's brother
Hamid Karzai - a top aide to the exiled former king - narrowly missed capture after Taleban troops raided his hideout in Uruzgan province.

He slipped over the border a few weeks ago to rally support for the king's proposals for a loya jirga, or grand assembly, to choose a future government.

Mr Karzai's Pakistan-based brother said that his family was "very worried" about him.


The Taleban regime earlier said that some rebel supporters had been captured and faced execution, but a spokesman in Kabul, Mohammed Tayeb Agha, has now told the BBC that they escaped.

Another supporter of the king, Commander Abdul Haq, was killed by the Taleban while on a similar mission inside Afghanistan.

News of the events in the south came as American B-52 warplanes resumed bombing Taleban front lines north of the capital Kabul which threaten the strategic opposition-held air base at Bagram.

The White House had earlier confirmed that bombing would not be suspended during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which begins in mid-November.

The opposition Northern Alliance in Afghanistan has said it is ready to advance against Taleban forces now that troops and munitions in place. All that remains is the order to push forward from its defence minister, General Muhammed Fahim.

Speaking to the BBC on Thursday, Mr Karzai said he was attracting support from Pashtun tribal leaders.

But the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press agency quoted Taleban sources as saying that their troops, acting on a tip-off, attacked a hideout in the district of Dehrawut on Thursday night, forcing Mr Karzai to retreat to the hills.

Four rebels were said to have been killed and several others wounded in the fighting.

Mr Karzai's brother Ahmed Wali said the rebels had fought off the attack, together with local tribesmen with whom they were negotiating at the time.

One of the tribesmen's leaders said that the Taleban had brought support from other areas of the country, making resistance difficult.

Influential

Correspondents say there is no doubt that Mr Karzai is a highly influential figure.

He comes from the same clan as the former Afghan king and is a powerful Pashtun tribal leader in his own right.

Mr Karzai initially supported the Taleban but has recently been one of their most outspoken critics.

After the death of Haq, he is regarded as one of the royalist camp's best hopes for rallying support.

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
The BBC's Ian Pannell
"He is known to have been courted by the British"
Hamid Karzai's borther Ahmed Wali Karzai
"We see the King as the person who can bring back stability to Afghanistan"
See also:

02 Nov 01 | South Asia
Hamid Karzai: Taleban's powerful foe
26 Oct 01 | South Asia
Afghan powerbrokers: Who's who
27 Oct 01 | South Asia
Key Taleban opponent executed
02 Nov 01 | South Asia
US resumes heavy bombing
02 Nov 01 | Europe
Turkey rejects Ramadan pause
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