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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 12:34 GMT 13:34 UK
Mullah Omar 'gives interview'
A rare picture of Mullah Omar
Mullah Omar's whereabouts remain unknown
A Saudi newspaper has published what it says is an interview with Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar in which he says al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden is still alive.

Mullah Omar - whose own whereabouts are unknown - is also quoted as saying that the future of the United States in Afghanistan is "fire, hell and total defeat".

Sheikh Osama is, thanks be to God, still alive, to the horror of Bush

Mullah Omar quote
The London-based pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat does not disclose when it conducted the interview.

The newspaper said Mullah Omar had answered its questions, submitted in writing, via his information adviser, who translated the questions and answers between Arabic and Pashto.

Asharq al-Awsat only said the fugitive, who has eluded US forces since the fall of the Taleban's last bastion of Kandahar last year, was hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan.

If authentic, the interview would mark the first time Mullah Omar has spoken in detail since being driven from power.

'Fight goes on'

In the interview, Mullah Omar is quoted as saying that "the battle [in Afghanistan] has [just] started, its fire has been kindled and it will engulf the White House, seat of injustice and tyranny".

"[The United States] launched a war against Islam and Muslims without any legitimate justification, and I am confident that God [will grant Muslims] victory."

Kandahar mosque
Mullah Omar was forced to flee Kandahar twice
Mullah Omar did not admit any responsibility for the 11 September attacks, but said: "There were reasons behind these great deeds. America should seek to remove these reasons - and it knows them well - so that such accidents do not re-occur."

The report gave no indication of how Mullah Omar knew Bin Laden was alive or where the al-Qaeda leader was.

The US and interim Afghan governments are still looking for Mullah Omar in connection with the attacks carried out on 11 September last year.

Judicial authorities want to know, among other things, how much support the Taleban gave to the al-Qaeda network.

Abdul Rahman al-Rashid, editor of Asharq al-Awsat
"I think it is rhetoric"
See also:

22 Jan 02 | South Asia
Mullah Omar 'survived missile strikes'
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Profile: Mullah Mohammed Omar
05 Jan 02 | South Asia
Mullah Omar 'flees on motorbike'
07 Dec 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Deciding Mullah Omar's fate
14 Dec 01 | South Asia
Karzai's pursuit of Mullah Omar
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