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Taleban Vow to Fight to the Death - 2001-11-21

The Taleban says it will fight to death to defend its ground in Afghanistan. The Islamic militia says it has no communication with Osama bin Laden and does not know where he is.

Speaking to reporters in the Afghan town of Spin Boldak, Taleban spokesman Syed Tayyab Agha said the Taleban still controls four provinces in southern Afghanistan, including Kandahar. Mr. Agha said he is holding the press conference to dismiss rumors that the Taleban would desert Kandahar, the Islamic militia's power base. He said people in Kandahar are living normally and support the Taleban presence there.

According to the spokesman, Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar and his followers have a religious obligation to continue to fight. "Our forces in Kandahar and in surrounding provinces, they are enough to defend the present Taleban-controlled areas. We have to fight until we are alive whether we are in the cities or not," he said.

The Taleban spokesman says the hard-line movement is not fighting for power but for implementation of Islamic law. He says "a number" of Taleban soldiers were killed in U.S. air strikes.

Mr. Agha says Osama bin Laden is no longer living under the Taleban's control area and that they have no communication with him. He also claims he has no information about Al-Qaida members being in the Taleban-controlled territory.

According to the Taleban spokesman, the September 11 terrorist attacks are "America's problem, and have nothing to do with Afghanistan.

The Taleban is making a stand in Kandahar in the south and Kunduz in the north, where they are besieged by opposition Northern Alliance forces and under air attacks by U.S. airplanes.

More than 10,000 Taleban, Pakistan, Arab and Chechen fighters are encircled in Kunduz and negotiations on a surrender are under way.

Officials of the U.S. led coalition maintain Taleban forces in the area have no option but to surrender.

A U.S. spokesman for the coalition, Kenton Keith, told reporters in Islamabad that they are trying to persuade the Northern Alliance to show restraint in Kunduz in case Taleban forces surrender.

Mr. Keith said any mistreatment of the would-be prisoners will not help leaders of the Northern Alliance in next week's talks in Germany, which are meant to set up a broad-based transitional administration in Kabul. "They will be represented in Berlin in part of a process that is to lead to a stable and multi-ethnic government in Afghanistan," he said. "It is clearly not in their interest to have the effects of a major massacre or blood bath in Kunduz weighing in the balance."

The United Nations has invited all Afghan parties to a conference in German on Monday on Afghanistan's political future. U.N. officials say the Northern Alliance, which controls most of the Afghan territory, has agreed to attend the meeting.