Accused terrorist Osama bin Laden is calling on Muslims in Pakistan to fight what he describes as "American crusader forces." The statement follows a demand made by the Taleban supreme leader on Monday that the United States withdraw its forces from the Persian Gulf.
A signed statement provided to the Qatar-based Al-Jazeera satellite news channel calls on Pakistani Muslims to, in Osama bin Laden's words, "be steadfast on the path of jihad, or holy war, with the heroic Afghan people, under the leadership of Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taleban supreme leader."
Osama bin Laden has frequently used the news channel as an outlet to broadcast his statements.
The statement refers to the four people killed during demonstrations in Karachi last Friday as the first "martyrs" in Islam's new battle. The demonstrators were protesting Pakistan's support for the U.S.-led military build-up in the region aimed at fighting terrorism.
President Bush says the Saudi fugitive and members of his al-Qaida organization are the "prime suspects" in the terrorist attacks that is estimated to have killed more than 6,000 people in the United States.
U.S. officials also say any military retaliation should not be seen as an attack against either Islam or the Afghan people.
In a statement from Taleban headquarters in Kandahar, Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taleban supreme leader said on Monday the United States wants to eliminate Islam and install a pro-American government in Afghanistan. He also said U.S. problems will not be solved by killing Osama bin Laden.
The Taleban Defense Minister on Monday said 300,000 experienced and well-equipped fighters have volunteered to fight a "jihad" if the United States invades Afghanistan.
The Taleban Ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaaef, says the Taleban is looking for Osama bin Laden, but does not know where he is. Ambassador Zaaef says Mullah Omar has agreed to ask the Saudi fugitive to leave Afghanistan voluntarily. The ambassador also says the Taleban would welcome any proof of Osama bin Laden's involvement in the terrorist attacks.
Ambassador Zaaef said providing proof Osama bin Laden's involvement in terrorism could solve the crisis peacefully. He also says the Taleban do not support terrorism and that Muslim countries should work to end the crisis.
U.S. officials say they plan to release to the public evidence linking Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida network to the terror attacks.
Meanwhile, Pakistan, citing security concerns, confirmed on Monday that it has withdrawn all staff from its embassy in Kabul. Pakistani officials say all 12 embassy staff members were withdrawn several days ago, but that Islamabad will not cut diplomatic ties with the Taleban as the United Arab Emirates did on Saturday.