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Afghan Opposition Leader Dies

Afghan opposition officials say their leader, Akhmed Shah Masood, has died of wounds he received in an attack last week.

A spokesman for the Afghan embassy in Moscow says Mr. Masood has died from the severe wounds he received in a suicide attack last Sunday. There are similar reports from Tajikistan, a country which neighbors Afghanistan.

But Mr. Masood's brother continues to insist the military commander is still alive.

On Friday, Mr. Masood's senior general was named to replace him as head of the Northern Alliance, and an emergency meeting of alliance leaders is taking place. The alliance is a coalition of groups which have long been fighting against the hard-line Islamic Taleban which controls most of Afghanistan.

Mr. Masood was seriously injured one week ago in a suicide attack by two men who posed as journalists. A bomb which was apparently hidden inside their television camera exploded.

Many experts say the attack may have been orchestrated by Osama bin Laden, the suspected terrorist mastermind who's been living in Afghanistan as a so-called "guest" of the Taliban. Osama bin Laden is also considered a primary suspect in the terrorist attacks in the United States last Tuesday.

Mr. Masood's reported death comes just as military action is being considered against Osama bin Laden.

The Northern Alliance stands to benefit from any such action, as a military attack would weaken the Taleban's grip on the poor, war-torn country.

Russia has long been providing help to the Northern Alliance because of concern about the Taleban's brand of radical Islamic fundamentalism and its influence throughout the Muslim world.

Russia is now offering to assist the United States with intelligence information about Osama bin Laden and his network of terror groups. However, Russia is stopping short of offering formal assistance for any military action the U.S. may decide to take.

The Taleban is not recognized by most of the international community as the legitimate government of Afghanistan.

The Taleban remain defiant, and have proclaimed that they will attack any neighboring country which may assist the United States should military action begin.