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Last Updated: Thursday, 20 April 2006, 20:57 GMT 21:57 UK
Pakistan Taleban vow more attacks
By Aamer Ahmed Khan
BBC News, South Waziristan, Pakistan

Haji Omar
Haji Omar spent years fighting Soviet troops
The head of the Taleban in Pakistan's tribal areas has warned that there can be no peace in Afghanistan for as long as US forces remain in that country.

"We will not stop our jihad [holy war] against the Americans," Haji Omar told the BBC News website.

The Afghan government has repeatedly complained that militants in Pakistan are freely crossing the border to carry out attacks.

Pakistan denies that it is helping the Taleban fighters.

Haji Omar was chosen to lead the Pakistani Taleban after their first declared leader, Nek Mohammed, was killed in a US air strike in 2004.

We understand that Pakistan attacks us only under American pressure
Taleban leader Haji Omar

This was Haji Omar's first face-to-face interview with a Western news organisation.

"The easiest way to end this very violent conflict is for the US to pull out of Afghanistan," Haji Omar said.

"We are not even willing to discuss anything with the Americans. We just want them out."

Tribesmen

The interview was held in Wana, the main town in the South Waziristan tribal area where the Pakistani Taleban have established their control.

Haji Omar now commands thousands of tribal militants who call themselves Taleban, a name normally used for the student militia that took control of Afghanistan in the mid-1990s.

The Afghan Taleban were bombed out of power from Afghanistan by the US after 9/11.

Their fall inspired thousands of armed Pakistani tribesmen in the areas bordering Afghanistan to call themselves Taleban.

Based largely in the Pakistani tribal belt of North and South Waziristan, the Pakistani Taleban joined their Afghan counterparts in the latter's battle against the US-backed government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai.

Hundreds of Pakistani troops have been killed fighting the Taleban in the tribal areas since 2004.

Pakistan accuses the Taleban of harbouring al-Qaeda members who are also fighting US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan.

Instead of bombing its own people, Pakistan should tell the Americans to leave Afghanistan
Haji Omar

Haji Omar said the Taleban have no quarrel with the Pakistan government.

"We understand that Pakistan attacks us only under American pressure."

He alleged that the Karzai government was sending a regular stream of spies into the Pakistani tribal areas to seek out Arab and Central Asian militants.

"They go back and provide false information to the Americans who then put pressure on Pakistan to attack us.

"Pakistani forces bomb us and destroy our houses, so naturally we have to fight back," he says.

Foreigners

While denying that the Taleban are harbouring foreign militants in the tribal belt, Haji Omar says they would not hesitate to do so if there was a need.

Troops stand guard in Mira shah town in North Waziristan
Hundreds of Pakistani troops have been killed

"If any foreigner, a Muslim, came to us looking for protection, we are bound by our religion to protect him," he says.

"We are willing to lose our homes and even our families to protect such people."

Haji Omar said the government had made an offer to the Taleban to set up special camps for foreign militants where they would be well looked after.

"They said they were willing to house the foreigners, provide them with food and all their basic needs and even to give them a monthly stipend," Haji Omar said.

"But we rejected the offer because it is up to the foreigners to decide where to live and who they want to live with."

He said there was no question of handing over any foreign militant to the government.

"Instead of bombing its own people, Pakistan should tell the Americans to leave Afghanistan," he concluded.


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