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Friday, 7 December, 2001, 22:52 GMT
Power struggle in Kandahar
Afghah refugees fleeing Kandahar
The siege of Kandahar prompted thousands to flee
Taleban fighters have surrendered Kandahar, their last big stronghold, but the security situation is extremely hazardous with reports of clashes between rival factions who moved in to control the city.

US Marines man their posts in defence of Camp Rhino
US military action in Afghanistan is far from over, says President Bush
An armed force of about 100 Taleban Arab fighters is also reported to be still in the city, and has been surrounded.

US commanding General Tommy Franks said that American forces had exchanged fire with fleeing Taleban troops, and did not rule out US marines entering the city.

Amid confusion as to whether the Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is still in Kandahar, General Franks said the US was confident that he had not "vanished".

In other developments:

  • Al-Qaeda fighters offer fierce resistance as American planes and anti-Taleban forces attack Osama Bin Laden's hideouts in eastern Afghanistan
  • US President George W Bush warns that military efforts in Afghanistan still have a long way to go
  • Video footage is released showing alleged American Taleban fighter John Walker being questioned by a CIA officer
  • The head of United Nations peacekeeping operations, Jean-Marie Guehenno, calls for a multinational force to be deployed in Afghanistan as soon as possible
  • Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf calls Hamid Karzai, head of the new interim Afghan Government, to offer help to the fledgeling administration

A spokesman for former Kandahar governor Gul Agha, one of the local commanders, said his forces had taken over part of the city following fighting with supporters of another commander, Mullah Naqibullah, who oversaw the Taleban's surrender.

The spokesman said they did not recognise Mullah Naqibullah's authority in Kandahar.

Under a deal negotiated with Mr Karzai, the Taleban in Kandahar were to turn their weapons over to Mullah Naqibullah's forces and hand power to a tribal council.

Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar
Mullah Omar's whereabouts are a mystery
Mr Karzai told the BBC that the real authority in the city should now be with the council of tribal elders and religious clergy.

"The objective is to take Afghanistan from rule by the barrel of the gun to rule by the people," he said.

But Gul Agha has strongly criticised the agreement with the Taleban and said Kandahar had descended into anarchy.

Mr Karzai had made a "very, very wrong decision" in Kandahar, Gul Agha's spokesman told Reuters news agency.

"Now the city is in chaos, there is street-by-street fighting. Looting is going on. Everything has been caused by this gentleman, the new prime minister," spokesman Khalid Pashtoon said.

A key question for the US-led coalition, formed after the 11 September terror attacks on New York and Washington, is the whereabouts of the Taleban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Anti-Taleban fighter in Tora Bora region
Anti-Taleban forces are attacking the Tora Bora caves
The BBC's Katty Kay in Washington says his fate is vexing US officials who insist that he must be brought to justice.

America, she says, does not want him to be allowed to disappear into a life of freedom in the Afghan desert.

Mr Karzai said Mullah Omar would be arrested if found.

"I have given him every chance to denounce terrorism and now the time has run out. He is an absconder, a fugitive from justice," Mr Karzai said.

BBC correspondents say that with the Taleban's collapse all but complete, the US campaign is now focusing on the hunt for Bin Laden, accused by Washington of masterminding the 11 September suicide attacks.

There has been speculation that he fled to a mountain fortress - a complex of caves in a part of eastern Afghanistan known as Tora Bora, occupied by hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters.

Units of the Northern Alliance, helped by special forces of the US-led coalition, have attacked the caves and say they now control large parts of them.

The BBC's Clive Myrie
"The big prize is still elusive"
The BBC's Janet Cohen
"Keeping the peace will be as hard as fighting the war"
Afghan interim leader Hamid Karzai
"Government of the people is the objective"
The BBC's Stephen Sackur
"There's concern that the interim leader did not ensure Mullah Omar's capture"
See also:

07 Dec 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden fighters make a stand
07 Dec 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Changing role for US military
07 Dec 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Deciding Mullah Omar's fate
07 Dec 01 | South Asia
Profile: Mullah Naqibullah
02 Nov 01 | South Asia
Kandahar's troubled past
07 Dec 01 | South Asia
CIA questioned 'American Taleban'
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