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Wednesday, 21 November, 2001, 17:59 GMT
Defiant Taleban to fight on
Agha: Time to forget about 11 September attacks
Agha: Time to forget about 11 September attacks
The Taleban say they will fight to the death to hold on to areas still under their control in Afghanistan.

Syed Tayyab Agha, a spokesman for Taleban leader Mullah Omar, said the movement was still in control of three Afghan provinces, and part of another.

You should forget the 11 September attack, because now there is new fighting against Muslims and Islam

Syed Tayyab Agha, Taleban spokesman
"We will defend our nation... and we will not give any chance to anybody to disturb our Islamic rule in Kandahar and other provinces," he told a rare news conference in the Taleban-ruled border town of Spin Boldak.

Flanked by Taleban soldiers clutching Kalashnikov rifles, Mr Agha dismissed recent reports that Mullah Omar was prepared to leave his southern stronghold of Kandahar and said the Taleban leader had a "religious duty" to remain in the province.

Click here for map of the battlegrounds

Asked about the whereabouts of Osama Bin Laden, the main suspect behind the 11 September attacks on the United States, Mr Agha said the Saudi dissident was no longer in territory under Taleban control.

"We have no idea where he is. There is no relation right now. There is no communication."

Mr Agha told the assembled foreign journalists the attacks on America were not the Taleban's problem, and said the movement had a religious duty to spread Sharia, or Islamic religious law, in Afghanistan.

BBC correspondent Peter Greste says the Taleban's message, coming at this particular point, is a very defiant one in the face of the forthcoming conference on Afghanistan's political future.

He says any speculation the Taleban were willing to surrender is now out of the question, something allied commanders have been hoping would happen.

In other developments:

  • Monday's meeting between the UN and Afghan ethnic groups has been moved from Berlin to Bonn, a German foreign ministry spokesman said
  • US Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld tells CBS news he would prefer Osama Bin Laden was killed rather than taken alive
  • France is to send its nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle to support the military campaign in Afghanistan
  • The US and other countries promise a quick start to the process of reconstructing Afghanistan
  • Aid agencies call for the UN to organise a multinational force to restore stability in Afghanistan
  • US broadcasts and leaflets tell Afghans of a $25m reward for the capture of Osama Bin Laden
  • The bodies of four journalists killed in Afghanistan on Monday are brought across the border to Pakistan

The United States, meanwhile, has offered to halt its bombardment of the northern Afghan city of Kunduz, if it would help negotiations for the surrender of Taleban troops holed up in the city.

Deputy director of operations of the Joint Staff, Rear Admiral John Stufflebeem, said the US would pause if the Northern Alliance asked it to do so, but the alliance has so far not responded.

Northern Alliance gunner
Agha said the Taleban would defend their territory from opposition forces
Talks between the Northern Alliance, which has encircled Kunduz, and the besieged Taleban militia are reported to be at a standstill.

About 30,000 civilians are believed to be trapped inside the city, which came under renewed attack by American bombers on Wednesday morning.

The Northern Alliance has given the Taleban until Thursday to give up or face an all-out assault, but it has warned any amnesty would apply only to Afghans and not to foreign fighters.

Taleban representatives in Pakistan have asked the United Nations to intervene to allow the movement's fighters safe passage out of Kunduz, but the world body says it does not have the personnel on the ground to do so.

The request has also been rejected by the US and Northern Alliance.

As the bombing continued, the US general in charge of the military operation in Afghanistan, Tommy Franks, said the United States might send an additional 2,300 marines to join troops already in place in Afghanistan.

General Franks, who visited Bagram air base near Kabul on Tuesday for talks with Northern Alliance leaders, was confident the Taleban would be defeated in Kunduz.

"I don't know how long that battle will continue but at the end of the day we will prevail in the city of Kunduz," he said after his first visit to Afghanistan since the strikes began.

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The BBC's Matt Frei
"The Taleban is now desperate to get its message across"
The BBC's Adam Mynott
"The Northern Alliance is keeping its vice-like grip on Kunduz"
The Taleban's Tayab Agha
speaking at a press conference in Spin Boldak
See also:

21 Nov 01 | South Asia
US offers bombing pause
21 Nov 01 | South Asia
Nations unite to rebuild Afghanistan
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
In pictures: Afghans flee Kunduz
20 Nov 01 | South Asia
Q&A: What will Afghan talks produce?
21 Nov 01 | Americas
US wary of peacekeeping
21 Nov 01 | South Asia
Rabies fears in Kabul
21 Nov 01 | South Asia
Journalists' bodies taken to Pakistan
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