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Taleban Leader Whereabouts Still Unknown - 2001-12-07

The whereabouts of Taleban leader Mullah Mohamed Omar remain unknown as the Taleban abandons its last stronghold of Kandahar, in southern Afghanistan.

Taleban soldiers surrendered their weapons in return for amnesty and left Kandahar Friday under a deal negotiated with Afghanistan's new designated leader, Hamid Karzai. However, many soldiers simply ran away without turning in any weapons, abandoning Kandahar as they had other cities in Afghanistan.

Hamid Karzai told the American television network NBC that Taleban rule in Afghanistan was over. "The Taleban regime is ended as of today, morning," he said.

However, Mr. Karzai said he did not know where Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar was. The United States had expressed concern that Mullah Omar might receive an amnesty. Mr. Karzai said Friday that this would not happen.

"I have been asking him for months, since my arrival in Afghanistan, to work to topple the Taleban regime, and to remove terrorism from Afghanistan," Mr. Karzai said. "I have been asking him repeatedly to denounce terrorism and war and the suffering of the Afghan people. I also asked the Taleban Cabinet yesterday, that he must distance himself clearly and denounce terrorism, I gave him a last chance yesterday, I gave him a last chance also last night. He did not avail of those chances. From today onward he is a fugitive from law and he must be arrested and put on trial."

There are reports the departure of the Taleban from Kandahar was greeted with cheers by local people. Many tore down the Taleban white flag, and appeared on the streets carrying pictures of Afghanistan's former king Zahir Shah.