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Taliban urged to fight on

Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, is rarely seen in public
Taliban leader, Mullah Omar, is rarely seen in public  

KABUL, Afghanistan -- The Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, is reportedly urging his forces to fight on, even as U.S. warplanes step up efforts to find and perhaps even kill him.

A Taliban aide on the border with Pakistan said Omar radioed his commanders Wednesday urging them to stand up to U.S. Marines being deployed in southern Afghanistan.

"Stick to your positions and fight to the death" the aide quoted Omar as saying, according to the Associated Press.

"We are ready to face these Americans. We are happy that they have landed here and we will teach them a lesson."

"Stick to your positions and fight to the death" - Mullah Omar

The message was apparently broadcast after the Taliban leader escaped unharmed from a U.S. airstrike on what was Pentagon officials say they believed to be a command bunker close to the city of Kandahar.

Officials say Omar is still in the city, which has been the movement's stronghold for several years.

Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban's former ambassador to Pakistan, said Omar was not injured in the attack and was "safe and sound".

Search and destroy

Speaking in the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, Zaeef added that suspected terrorist Osama bin Laden, number one suspect in the September 11 attacks on the U.S., was not in Taliban-controlled territory.

Zaeef said bin Laden's whereabouts were unknown.

Outside of Kandahar about 800 United States Marines have set up a forward operating base to launch operations aimed at finding and destroying Taliban and al Qaeda targets.

Kandahar is the only city in Afghanistan still under Taliban control following the rapid advance of Northern Alliance forces which, until recently, controlled only about five percent of the country's territory.

Omar's urging to continue the fight came as negotiations continued for the Taliban to turn the border town of Spin Boldak, about 70 miles southeast of Kandahar, over to tribal leaders.

Two Pashtun tribes -- the Norzai and the Achezai -- have been talking with the Taliban over the past few days about surrendering control of the town.

The Taliban wants to hand it over to both tribes, but Pakistani officials say neither Pashtun group wants to share power with the other.

Concerns have been raised that with both groups negotiating for control of the town, the losing party might try to gain power through violence.


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