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Al-Qaida Fighters Offer to Surrender in Tora Bora - 2001-12-11

A senior anti-Taleban commander eastern Afghanistan says al-Qaida fighters holed up in the Tora Bora mountain cave complex have offered to surrender.

The anti-Taleban defense chief for eastern Afghanistan, Haji Mohammed Zaman, says he has declared a cease-fire in Tora Bora after fighters of al-Qaida promised to give up. He spoke with VOA by satellite telephone.

"Today afternoon, at 2 o'clock, they called me [and said] we don't want to fight with you and don't fight with us. I said if you want to surrender, I am ready to stop the war. Then I told them you must get off from the area. They say we are a lot of people [and] tomorrow morning [at] 8 o'clock, group by group we will come to you," he said.

Mr. Zaman says, terror suspect Osama bin Laden was in Tora Bora, but he is not sure whether the Saudi fugitive is dead are alive. He aid the exact situation will be known when al-Qaida fighters surrender.

Afghan leader Zaman said Mr. bin Laden's al-Qaida fighters who turn themselves in or are captured will be turned over to the United Nations to decide their fate.

It is still not known whether all the al-Qaida troops had completely abandoned the extensive network of caves and tunnels at Tora Bora or if some of them are holding out in fortified positions deep underground.

Across the border, Pakistani soldiers have been deployed on mountains south of Tora Bora to stop al-Qaida fighters from crossing the frontier along the 4,700 meter high White Mountains.

Tuesday's surrender offer came following intense ground attacks by anti-Taleban forces who have been backed up by U.S. special forces and a relentless American bombing campaign.

Mr. Zaman said his forces launched a heavy attack in the area on Monday and seized important hill-top positions from bin Laden's fighters in Tora Bora, the last major stronghold of the Taleban and al-Qaida forces in Afghanistan.

There was no immediate reaction from the United States, which has been waging a campaign against the Taleban and al-Qaida forces in retaliation for the Terrorist attacks on New York and Washington three months ago.