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Taleban Threatens Countries that Assist US - 2001-09-15

The ruling Afghan Taleban movement is threatening war with any country that gives assistance to possible U.S. attacks on Afghanistan.

A Taleban statement says that if neighboring or regional countries, including Islamic nations, allow the United States to use their territories for an attack on Afghanistan, it will "spark off an extraordinary danger."

The Taleban ambassador to Pakistan, Abdul Salam Zaeef, read the statement at a news conference. "If any neighboring country gave territorial way or airspace to USA against our land, it would draw us into an imposed war," he said through an interpreter. "It is not impossible that we would attack such country under compulsion and the Mujahideen (holy-warriors) would have to enter the territory of such a country. The responsibility for the grave consequences would then rest with these countries."

Mr. Zaeef has again denied that alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden masterminded the attacks in New York and Washington. He reiterated that Saudi fugitive bin Laden has been barred from using the tools and communication facilities, which are needed for attacks of this scale.

Osama bin Laden lives in Afghanistan as a "guest" of the Taleban. He is reported to be a prime suspect in Tuesday's attacks on U.S. cities.

The latest Taleban statement comes amid reports that neighboring Pakistan has agreed to U.S. requests to provide its air space if the United States decides to attack targets in Afghanistan. No official comment is available on these reports. Pakistan is a strong supporter of Afghanistan's ruling Taleban movement and is the only country that has an embassy in Kabul.

Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar has urged Afghans to face the threat of U.S. retaliation firmly and prepare for "jihad" or a holy war to defend Islam. He has asked Muslims worldwide to join, even though President Bush and other U.S. officials have said repeatedly that the U.S. fight is against terrorism, and not Islam.

Pakistan's military leader General Pervez Musharraf has already promised the United States his country will provide full cooperation in the fight against terrorism. But he has not yet said what form this help might take.