Taliban say they won't abandon Kandahar

Wednesday, November 21, 2001

Associated Press WriterSPINBOLDAK, Afghanistan (AP) -- The Taliban have lost contact with Osama bin Laden and he is no longer under the militia's control, the spokesman for the movement's supreme leader said Wednesday.

Syed Tayyad Agha, spokesman for Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, also said the Taliban have decided not to abandon their home base Kandahar and will fight to defend the four or five provinces still under the militia's control.

Agha said he knew of no members of bin Laden's al-Qaida network in areas under Taliban control and that contact with them had been lost "due to their communication problems."

"We have no idea where he is," Agha said of bin Laden. "There is no relation right now. There is no communication."

President Bush launched the military campaign against Afghanistan on Oct. 7 after the Taliban refused to hand over bin Laden for his alleged role in the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks that killed 4,000 people in the United States.

However, Agha told a group of foreign journalists in this southern border town that Sept. 11 was "America's problem" because it was carried out by people in the United States and that the Taliban was not responsible.

"This is the problem of Bush and (British Prime Minister) Tony Blair," he said. "This is not our problem."

Agha said the Taliban were not a spent force and would defend the "provinces they still control after a week of sweeping battlefield defeats and retreats across Afghanistan.

"They have decided to defend the presently controlled areas," he said. "We will try our best and we will defend our nation ... and we will not give any chance to anybody to disturb our Islamic rule in Kandahar and other provinces."

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