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Saturday, 1 December, 2001, 13:12 GMT
Bin Laden 'bought off' Taleban
Osama Bin Laden (left) and al-Qaeda chief  Ayman al-Zawahri
Bin Laden (left): Pockets said to be stuffed with cash
Osama bin Laden had Taleban leaders in his pocket, frequently buying them off with huge cash payments, a senior defector from Afghanistan's former ruling movement has said.

Mohammed Khaksar, former Taleban deputy interior minister, said Bin Laden freely distributed bundles of notes to officials to buy freedom of movement for his al-Qaeda network, which is blamed for the 11 September attacks in the US.

"He had the money in his pocket," Mr Khaksar told the Washington Post in an interview. "Any time he wanted, he would just pull it out and give it to them."

There wasn't anybody who had power over Osama. He did whatever he wanted

Mohammed Khaksar
It was apparently not uncommon for the Saudi-born Bin Laden, one of the heirs to a multi-billion dollar construction fortune, to hand over sums of $50,000 and even $100,000 at a time.

Gifts of expensive cars for officials or fleets of pick-up trucks to ferry fighters to the front were also used to secure influence.

"Al-Qaeda was very important for the Taleban because they had so much money," Mr Khaksar was quoted as saying. "They gave a lot of money. And the Taleban trusted them.

"There wasn't anybody who had power over Osama. He did whatever he wanted."

While Mr Khaksar's account is impossible to confirm, US intelligence reports have described in detail how Bin Laden bankrolled the Taleban with an estimated $100 million in financial and military help since seeking their protection in 1996.

'We don't need you'

Mr Khaksar, who changed sides as Kabul fell last month and now supports the Northern Alliance, is the highest-ranking defector from the Taleban leadership.

One of the key figures in the Taleban when it emerged in 1994, he was a one-time close friend of its reclusive leader, Mullah Omar and privy to some of the movement's most closely-guarded secrets.

Northern Alliance mock flyer of Bin Laden (right) and his aide  Ayman al-Zawahri
When the alliance took Kabul, Mr Khaksar stayed
Mr Khaksar said he never supported the decision to give Bin Laden and his fighters sanctuary.

"From the beginning, I was against Arabs and other foreigners coming to Afghanistan.

"I felt when foreigners come to our country, our country would be destroyed. And now you see what's happened," Mr Khaksar said.

He could not say whether Mullah Omar and other top leaders had prior knowledge of the 11 September attacks - but he had no doubt Bin Laden was behind it.

He said he had warned his colleagues before the attacks that "the guy would do something bad".

Mr Khaksar also said he met Bin Laden once, in 1996, and told him: "We don't need you.

"He got very upset and I never saw him again."

See also:

16 Nov 01 | South Asia
Al-Qaeda nuclear plans confirmed
11 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden nuclear threat dismissed
10 Nov 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden 'has nuclear weapons'
26 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Bin Laden's 'nuclear threat'
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
07 Nov 01 | Business
Following the money trail
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