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Taliban patrols look for sympathizers of exiled king

JALALABAD, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The Taliban stepped up patrols in eastern Afghanistan on Wednesday, looking for sympathizers of exiled King Mohammed Zahir Shah.

Security personnel were visible in Jalalabad as well as Asadabad, north of Jalalabad on the border with Pakistan.

In another development, the Taliban, who control most of Afghanistan, have dispersed their armor and what remains of their artillery to different locations in rural areas, moving everything away from big military bases. The move appeared to be in anticipation of a military strike by U.S. forces.

The Bush administration has branded Osama bin Laden, living in Afghanistan as the guest of the Taliban, as the "prime suspect" in last month's terrorist attacks and has been highly critical of the Taliban regime for allowing the suspected terrorist mastermind to live and train in that country.

In a statement released Wednesday, the supreme leader of Afghanistan called on Islamic scholars Wednesday to help people prepare "for a holy war" in the wake of the terrorist attacks against the United States.

Mullah Mohammed Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban, told his nation in a radio address that anyone who supports an anti-Taliban government, including one headed by the former king, will be considered traitors punishable by death.

Administration officials have told CNN that the United States wants to use the former Afghan king as a "rallying force" to bring groups opposed to the Taliban, in Afghanistan and around the world, together.

Over the weekend, a congressional delegation traveled to Rome to meet with the exiled king, who said he is "ready willing and able" to lead an interim government in Afghanistan. The 86-year-old king was deposed in 1973 and has been living in Italy since then.

-- Journalist Kamal Hyder contributed to this report from inside Afghanistan.


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