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Thursday, September 13, 2001

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Osama will not be extradited without evidence: Taliban

By B. Muralidhar Reddy

ISLAMABAD, SEPT. 12. The Taliban has ruled out the possibility of the extradition of the Saudi fugitive, Osama bin Laden, hiding in Afghanistan, without conclusive evidence of his involvement in terrorist activities.

The Taliban's Ambassador to Pakistan, Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, reiterated the militia's position at a news conference here today.

Within hours of the terrorist strikes in New York and Washington on Tuesday, the Taliban Ambassador cautioned the United States against reaching any hasty conclusion about the suspects.

To a question today whether the Taliban apprehended U.S. retaliation, he said that while it had no reasons to fear any attack, strikes could not be ruled out.

Asked about Osama's extradition, Mullah Zaeef said it would be ``premature'' to talk about it. ``If any evidence is presented to us, we will study it. About his being handed over, we can talk about that in the second phase.''

This has been the Taliban's consistent stand in the face of demands for the extradition of Osama for his alleged involvement in the bombings that killed 224 people at the U.S. Embassies in Kenya and Tanzania and last year's bomb attack on the USS Cole at a harbour in Yemen, which killed 17 sailors.

The U.S. has been engaged in negotiations with the Taliban authorities for several months now over the extradition. In the talks, Taliban representatives suggested at least three specific proposals but none of them was acceptable to the U.S. as they sought Osama's trial under the Islamic laws as interpreted by the Taliban.

Kabul attacked

In a related development, the Northern Alliance fighting the Taliban has claimed to have carried out a series of attacks on Kabul. Reports reaching from the Afghan city said that explosions were heard early in the morning and they were mistaken for retaliatory action by the U.S.

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