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Nic Robertson: Tribal dispute over Spin Boldak

(CNN) -- Top Taliban official Abdul Salam Zaeef denied Wednesday that U.S. airstrikes hit a Taliban leadership compound outside Kandahar and said the group's spiritual leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, is safe and unharmed.

CNN's Nic Robertson, reporting from Spin Boldak, talked about those reports, and the latest developments on the efforts of anti-Taliban forces to take control of Spin Boldak, where Taliban and local tribal commanders are negotiating the surrender of the town..

ROBERTSON: These talks we are told have been stalled for three days. We just came back from the border, and we talked to people coming out of Spin Boldak and they still say that it's in the control of the Taliban, although they do say there are some tribal elements running around in the town. But they do say that the Taliban control it, mostly.

The problem with the negotiations, Pakistani officials tell us, is that the Taliban do appear to be ready to surrender Spin Boldak. What they want to do is split the power between two Pashtun tribes. Apparently, these two tribes won't agree to share the power. Each tribe wants it for themselves. That appears to be blocking progress at the moment.

We're also getting more information about the road from Kandahar to Spin Boldak. The road appears not to be fully under Taliban control and it is not clear who controls much of the hinterland between here and Kandahar.

CNN: What have you heard from your sources about speculation that Taliban supreme leader Mullah Omar was targeted by recent U.S. bombing?

ROBERTSON: Here at the border, rumors and ideas about that are fairly sketchy. Certainly everyone here has listened to the news and is aware of these attacks targeting Mullah Omar. Interestingly, even these tribal commanders here, who we've talked to and who are involved in negotiations to take power away from the Taliban, talk about the American strikes as being something unfortunate and something they wish weren't happening.


• Taliban claim leader Omar safe
November 28, 2001

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