US-Backed Northern Alliance Says Bin Laden and Omar Alive, Claims Push into Kandahar
The Northern Alliance said on Thursday Osama bin Laden was hiding in eastern or southern Afghanistan as they and US forces sought to demoralize Taliban fighters defending their last bastion of Kandahar, said reports.
Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar is also alive after 54 days of US strikes that have broken his movement's power and driven his troops into corners of the south and east, alliance spokesman Mohammad Habeel told Reuters.
"They are alive and still in Afghanistan," Habeel said. He said the two men could be hiding either in the Safi Koh mountains near the eastern city of Jalalabad or jagged ranges around Kandahar, the last city still in Taliban hands.
A top commander of the Northern Alliance said Thursday that his forces were moving into Kandahar. The Pentagon said opposition troops could be in the provincial district around the city, according to AP.
Bismillah Khan told the agency that his forces had “entered into Kandahar,'' and later reported fighting just on the city's edge. Khan was speaking from Kabul and said his information was based on radio communications with his commanders at the scene.
In Washington, Rear Adm. John Stufflebeem said he could not confirm or deny that opposition forces had entered the city of Kandahar. He indicated that alliance troops might be in the province of Kandahar, which covers a large area of southern Afghanistan.
“There have in fact been opposition groups, some of which are from the north, that have been around the Kandahar province - to the north of the Kandahar province,'' he said.
Kandahar, the birthplace of the Islamic militia, is some 280 miles southwest of the capital, Kabul.
Residents of Kandahar could not be contacted by telephone to verify Khan's claim. Western journalists are not allowed in Kandahar.
Pressure has been mounting on the Taliban after US Marines established a forward base last weekend in southern Afghanistan, and there were reports of heavy US bombing of the area on Thursday.
Meanwhile, the Pentagon said Thursday it could not confirm reports that a senior leader of the Al Qaeda terrorist networks had been captured in Afghanistan.
"I have no information about that capture," Rear Admiral John Stufflebeam said at a Pentagon news conference, cited by AFP.
He was reacting to reports that Northern Alliance forces in Afghanistan have captured the son of Sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman, the blind Muslim cleric convicted in a 1995 plot to bomb New York City landmarks.
Earlier Thursday a US official said Abdel-Rahman was an Al Qaeda operative of "some prominence in the movement."
"I'm not sure how senior or how knowledgeable he would be. But any Al Qaeda member is worthy of taking off the street," he said – Albawaba.com
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