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Taliban form 'resistance force'

About 11,500 U.S. and allied troops are hunting Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.
About 11,500 U.S. and allied troops are hunting Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The elusive leader of Afghanistan's former Taliban regime, Mullah Omar, has named a 10-member council to organize resistance to U.S. and allied forces in the country, a news report said Tuesday.

The Pakistani-based newspaper The News said the announcement was made in an audiotape sent from Mullah Omar's hiding place inside Afghanistan.

In the recording he calls on Taliban fighters to make sacrifices to drive out U.S. and other foreign troops and the "puppet" government of U.S.-backed President Hamid Karzai, the paper said.

Among those reportedly included on the council are former Taliban defense minister Mullah Obaidullah and several Taliban military commanders.

Despite a year and a half of searching by U.S. and allied forces the whereabouts of Mullah Omar and al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden remain unknown.

Bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership were sheltered by the Taliban following the September 11 2001 attacks on New York and Washington, and Western intelligence experts believe that the two may still be in contact or hiding out in the same area.

At present there are about 11,500 troops under U.S. command hunting Taliban and al Qaeda remnants in Afghanistan.

Speaking to Reuters, Mullah Abdul Rauf, a provincial governor in the former Taliban regime, said the new council was formed after five days of talks held at an undisclosed location in southern Afghanistan.

"The Shura was formed to expedite jihad (holy war) against occupation forces and strengthen the Taliban movement," he was quoted as saying.

At the weekend U.S. forces began preparations to deploy troops along Afghanistan's southern border with Pakistan in an effort to prevent Taliban and al Qaeda remnants from crossing into the country and carrying out attacks.

U.S. and Afghan officials have blamed a spate of recent attacks on "terrorists" crossing from Pakistan where senior members of the Taliban are thought to have gone into hiding.

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