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Taliban death threat to opposition supporters

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The head of Afghanistan's ruling Taliban has warned that anyone supporting an opposition government, including one headed by the country's former king, will be considered traitors punishable by death.

Taliban supreme leader Mullah Mohammed Omar delivered his speech over Kandahar's Radio Sharia -- his fifth public address since the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

A leader who in the past had rarely spoken publicly to the Afghan people and who has never been seen on camera, Omar cast himself as a representative of the nation's people bent on preserving the Taliban's Islamic customs.

He said Afghans need to look after their religion and to not let U.S. involvement in "our affairs" destroy Islam.

He warned against reinstating the former Afghan king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, or any form of government to replace the Taliban.

"Do you think the king will arrest Christian proselytizers like we do? Do you think the king will defend our faith in Allah?" Omar asked.

He accused the king of inviting Communist occupation of Afghanistan that resulted in the deaths of 2 million Afghans, and he said those who back the king would have no right to complain if he is again the leader and tragedy befalls the nation.


Anyone who supports the king or any other anti-Taliban government "will be accused of treason" -- an offense that could result in the death penalty, Omar warned.

Omar did not mention Osama bin Laden, the suspected terrorist mastermind who is thought to remain in Afghanistan as a "guest" of the Taliban.

The U.S. has indicated bin Laden and his terrorist network al Qaeda would bear the brunt of any military assault.

Also in his address Omar criticized a Pakistani official for saying Pakistan was at fault for "making" the Taliban.

He said the Taliban "made themselves" through struggle.

If Pakistan helped make the Taliban, Omar asked, then why was he -- a "simple man" from the village of Sangisar -- chosen to be leader when they could have chosen a commander of their choice?

The mention of his hometown was the first time Omar has publicly said where he is from.

Bin Laden 'sighted'

Meanwhile, in Taliban-controlled eastern Afghanistan, residents have been questioning the Taliban's decision to continue harboring bin Laden and risk U.S. military strikes against the devastated country.

Reports also have surfaced that bin Laden had been sighted in the town of Jalalabad some two weeks ago, but the Taliban say they are shuffling the suspected terrorist around the country.

Some Afghans are wondering if bin Laden is working on his own, and not under Taliban control.

On Tuesday the Taliban's ambassador to Pakistan, Mullaha Abdul Salam Zaeef told CNN's Larry King Live, they were willing to negotiate with the United States on bin Laden's handover, if they were provided with evidence that linked him and his al Qaeda network to last month's attacks on the United States.

"We prefer to the negotiation than the war, because the war is very bad, it has a lot of bad results in the future and this will be increasing the problems, not decreasing," he said.

Without proof of bin Laden's involvement in the attacks, he said the Taliban cannot hand him over to the U.S.

"If Osama Bin Laden is involved , we need something which is evidence, which is proof of Osama bin Laden, to talk of this option," he said.

The Bush administration claims the Taliban have enough evidence of bin Laden's terrorism ties and refuse to negotiate with the regime.

They have threatened military action if the Taliban do not comply with their demands.

The Taliban have been adamant about not talking about the issue, ignoring advice and proposals from Pakistan -- the only country with ties to the Taliban.

Two Pakistani delegations have traveled to Afghanistan in attempts to convince their neighbor to comply with U.S. demands, to no avail.

-- Journalist Kamal Hyder in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan contributed to this report.


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