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Afghan Forces Issue New Surrender Offer

The militia leaders told reporters they would reject an al-Qaida surrender unless the group’s leaders still hiding in the caves and mountains of the Tora Bora complex turn themselves in as well. Leaders of the tribal eastern alliance have given bin Laden’s men until noon on Thursday to meet those demands.

Such an arrangement would mirror recent Pentagon statements on U.S. intentions for al-Qaida. Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said part of the U.S. mission was to ensure al-Qaida’s leaders would not go free.

The goal is “to capture or kill the al-Qaida and prevent them from escaping into other countries or other locations in Afghanistan where they can continue their terrorist activities. It is to capture or kill the senior Taliban leadership,” Rumsfeld said.

The al-Qaida fighters demanded they surrender to United Nations personnel with diplomats from their home countries present, the Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press reported.

Rumsfeld yesterday told reporters the U.S. would allow captured al-Qaida to be returned to their home countries, but only if those nations “had a similar attitude to ours about the undesirability of people running around engaging in mass murder,” he said.

Tribal forces, assisted by U.S. airstrikes, overran some of the Tora Bora complex’s thousands of caves yesterday, cornering many of the al-Qaida fighters asking to surrender.

The al-Qaida militants ignored a first surrender ultimatum issued yesterday that warned they must leave their cave hideouts by 8 a.m. local time today.

U.S. forces today reportedly renewed airstrikes on the Tora Bora region. Journalists in the area reported hearing U.S. AC-130s hitting targets in the mountains last night.

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