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Taleban Vows Fight To The Death - 2001-11-15

The head of Afghanistan's Taleban militia is vowing a fight to the death against Northern Alliance and other anti-Taleban forces who are reported to have taken over additional territory over the past 24 hours. During the past few days, the hard-line Islamic movement has suffered a series of military blows that cost the Taleban its grip on the capital Kabul and deprived it of most Afghan territory.

Taleban rule continued to crumble in parts of Afghanistan Thursday but it remains difficult to ascertain who actually controls different parts of the war-torn country. Conflicting reports from the eastern border city of Jalalabad say anti-Taleban forces may have taken control of the city. One anti-Taleban leader is quoted as saying the city's status is unclear. Some reports say Taleban fighters have fled.

The opposition Northern Alliance, backed by U.S. air strikes, pressed their advantage along several battlefronts in Afghanistan. Anti-Taleban forces are also reported to be confronting the Taleban in southern areas of the country.

Reports from the southern city of Kandahar say Taleban forces are making a stand around their longtime powerbase. It is unclear who actually controls the city. Taleban officials are quoted as saying its leader Mullah Mohammed Omar and terror suspect Osama bin Laden are alive and have not been captured by the opposition forces. They say Mullah Omar is in a safe place and in charge of his troops.

In an interview with the British Broadcasting Corporation, Mullah Omar said the Taleban withdrawal from Afghanistan's urban centers is part of a larger strategy. He said his fighters would prefer death to being part to what he described as an evil government.

In northern city of Kunduz, thousands of Taleban fighters are under siege. Opposition leaders say many of them are Pakistanis, Arabs and Chechens, who are trying to break out.

Meanwhile, neighboring Pakistan has moved troops and tanks to its southern border with Afghanistan. Officials say the move follows intelligence reports that large numbers of people traveling in cars are heading toward the border.

"The border of Pakistan is closed," said Aziz Khan, a Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman, "and we are exercising extreme vigilance not to allow any unauthorized persons to cross the border. Nobody, whether a foreigner or an Afghan, is being allowed to cross the border, except for those extreme cases of women and orphans or some terribly sick people. So there need not be any apprehension in that regard."

It is reported that hundreds of Taleban soldiers and members of al-Qaida, including its leader Osama bin Laden, may try to move into Pakistan to evade the U.S. hunt for him.

The United States has offered a $25 million reward for the capture of Osama bin Laden, the man suspected of directing the September terrorist attacks in New York and Washington.