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Taliban appeals to U.S. not to attack Afghanistan

Wakil Ahmed Mutawakel
Taliban Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Mutawakel: no direct allegations  

KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- Afghanistan's ruling Taliban condemned the hijacking attacks against the United States for a second time Wednesday and urged the U.S. not to attack them in retaliation.

CNN's Nic Robertson said Taliban officials called the attack a "sad humanitarian catastrophe."

The Taliban appealed to the U.S. not to attack Afghanistan because the Afghan people are already in a great deal of misery.

Wednesday's statement came after a meeting between senior Pakistani diplomats and Taliban officials that was described as inconclusive. Pakistan is one of the only countries that recognizes the Taliban government.

Afghanistan under the Taliban  
CNN's Nic Robertson in Kabul on the Taliban's reaction to the U.S. attack
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Former Afghan minister blames the Taliban

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CNN's Nic Robertson has more on the developments in Afghanistan after the attacks on the U.S. (September 12)

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The Taliban was swift to deny any involvement in the terrorism attacks in New York and Washington.

Taliban officials also denied that Osama bin Laden, the millionaire Saudi fugitive blamed for past terrorist attacks against American targets, was behind the attacks.

Intelligence officials and other sources have told CNN that bin Laden -- living in sanctuary in Afghanistan -- or the Al Qaeda group he heads are considered suspects in the attacks.

"There are good indications that persons linked to Osama bin Laden may be responsible for these attacks," an intelligence official told CNN, echoing the sentiments of some U.S. politicians.

The United Nations have already began evacuating staff from Afghanistan.

Earler, Robertson said that there was a sense of apprehension among senior Taliban officials concerned that possibly Afghanistan may be a place were retribution might be sought.

Speaking soon after the attacks, the Taliban's Foreign Minister Wakil Ahmed Mutawakel criticized all forms of terrorism.

He told reporters that Afghanistan nor bin Laden had been directly accused and it was not necessary for his country to take security precautions.

Also, Taliban's spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, said in a statement that bin Laden was not behind the attacks.

"Osama bin Laden could not be responsible," he said. "This type of terrorism is too great for one man."

'Multinational enterprise'

The Taliban gave sanctuary to bin Laden in 1996 mainly they say because of his role in war efforts that led to the withdrawal of Soviet Union forces from Afghanistan after 10-years of occupation.

Terrorism analyst Magnu Ranstorp told CNN that bin Laden is the leader of a terrorism organization that is "truly a multinational enterprise" with followers from many different nationalities.

He also said that bin Laden is being viewed as a possible suspect behind the terrorism attacks.

"Most of the attention is focused on bin Laden, perhaps not on him personally but on many of his lieutenants his followers all over the world," Ranstorp said.

Ranstorp said there has been a massive international effort since 1996 when bin Laden declared a holy war against the U.S. to tack bin Laden, his financial assets and his followers down.

He added that U.S. and other intelligence agencies have had a great difficulty in gathering information on the Al Quaida group because of the de-centralized nature of the organization and their experience is understanding how western intelligence operates.

U.N. pullout

Local U.N. staff have been paid their salaries and it was likely there would only be a skeleton staff of U.N. officials left in Kabul and other cities around the country.

Many other smaller non-government organizations and aid groups are also preparing to pull out of Afghanistan.

The U.N. relocation is expected to be completed by Thursday, a statement said.

Also on Wednesday, helicopter gunships operated by the Northern Alliance attacked Kabul's airport, firing missiles at targets.

The Northern Alliance have been involved in a long running civil war with the Taliban control about five percent of the country.

The Taliban says two airplanes and a workshop were damaged in the attacks.

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