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Afghan Rebels Reject Taleban's Call - 2001-10-15

Rebels in Northern Afghanistan are rejecting the Taleban's call for opposition fighters to join the Taleban movement and fight against the United States.

Northern Alliance soldiers defending territory near the Tajikistan border, patrolled the area as usual Monday afternoon. It was not clear how many knew about the extraordinary call by the Taleban, urging opposition commanders to switch sides and fight against the United States. But a Northern Alliance officer named Noor Ahmed says he knows no one in his unit who would consider such a move.

He says he and his soldiers will never join the Taleban, because their goal for the past several years has been to rid Afghanistan of the Taleban and terrorism forever. He says that objective will not change.

The officer is one of thousands of Afghans who fled their homes in 1996, when the Taleban took control of the capital, Kabul, and imposed their harsh form of Islam on the country. The Taleban controls more than 90 percent of Afghanistan, having been able thus far to hold back the advances of the much-smaller, more poorly equipped Northern Alliance army.

But nine days of U.S. led bombings of Taleban positions across the country have raised expectations of a major breakthrough for opposition fighters.

Early Monday, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press quoted a senior Taleban official as saying he had orders from Taleban spiritual leader Mullah Mohammed Omar to persuade Northern Alliance soldiers to "face America together."

But rebel commanders say that as the world's most modern military force gathers against the Taleban, the invitation to join their movement suggests the Taleban are desperate to find a way to delay the inevitable.