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Taliban leader: Prepare for holy war

U.N. staff leave Kabul.
Despite the leader of Afghanistan's advice not to be afraid, beleaguered Afghans fled the capital Saturday.  


KABUL, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The leader of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban told his nation Friday to prepare for holy war amid concerns that the United States would target it for harboring Osama bin Laden.

In a 17-minute radio address, Supreme Leader Mullah Mohammed Omar said the Afghan people should not be afraid and that he was not afraid of dying.

Afghanistan had been invaded by great powers before, including Britain and Russia, and had withstood the assault, he said.

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Afghanistan under the Taliban  
 
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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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On the scene: Taliban spiritual leader addresses nation  
 

"Now, the third empire of the world wants to impose an attack on us," he said. "As you know better, it is not because of Osama. This is the demonization of Islam."

U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell says bin Laden is the "primary suspect" in the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. But the Taliban denied Friday that bin Laden was involved.

Omar defends bin Laden

In a statement released through the Taliban's ambassador in Pakistan, Omar condemned the attacks and said it was impossible for bin Laden, who has long been harbored in the central Asian nation, to have been behind them.

Omar also said that if the United States acts without evidence it is committing terrorism itself.

In the statement, Omar said that there are no planes in Afghanistan, no places to train pilots, and bin Laden has not had the kind of communication that would have been required to plan the attacks.

He says the Taliban have isolated bin Laden and have taken away his fax machine, satellite phone, cell phone, computers and his Internet access.

Taliban officials have said that if the United States did have evidence against bin Laden, he would be tried before an Islamic court in Afghanistan.

The Taliban gave sanctuary to the millionaire Saudi dissident in 1996, mainly, they say, because of his role in war efforts that led to the withdrawal of Soviet forces from Afghanistan after 10 years of occupation.

Evacuations begin in Kabul

With expectations growing among many Afghans of some sort of U.S. retaliatory strike on Afghanistan, hundreds of Kabul residents have begun evacuating the city.

Most aid workers, reporters and diplomats based in the Afghan capital have already left, with the U.N. pulling out its entire international staff Thursday.

Residents left in the city say tensions are running high with any sounds, particularly in the night, raising fears that an attack may have begun.

The Taliban have appealed to the United States not to attack Afghanistan, saying the Afghan people were already in a great deal of misery.

The population and leadership are also concerned that any attacks could open the door for the Northern Alliance -- effectively the opposition government in Afghanistan, which has been engaged in a long-running civil war with the Taliban.






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