Taliban Vows Revenge If the U.S. Attacks

Since Tuesday’s attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and collpased part of the Pentagon outside Washington, Afghanistan has been the focus of possible military action.

President Bush called the attacks “acts of war” and said “the people who conducted these acts and those who harbor them” will be “held accountable.”

Secretary of State Colin Powell told the NewsHour that response would include a “campaign against terrorists.” Powell fingered the Saudi-born bin Laden as a prime suspect early yesterday, but broadened his comments later to say other terrorist organizations are also on the government’s possible suspects list.

But a Taliban spokesman told the Associated Press if the U.S. targeted bin Laden — and, by extension, Afghanistan — such a move would unleash a furious response.

“If a country or group violates our country, we will not forget our revenge,” Abdul Hai Muttmain said. He did not say how his organization would retaliate.

Muttmain said the U.S. would fail at an attempt to flush out bin Laden.

“Their missiles cannot find an individual,” he said.

Reports from the area say Afghans have fled the country’s capital Kabul fearing a U.S. strike.

But on the Taliban-controlled Voice of Shariat Radio, the group’s supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar told Afghans to stand strong and “face any American attack with courage and self-respect.”

During the address, Omar said he would rather die than bow to U.S. threats.

“I am not afraid of losing power,” he said. “I am willing to give up power and my seat, but I’m not willing to give up Islam. We will be victorious.”

A member of the Islamist militant group Hamas said Muslims should come together to resist “the American threats.

“I join the cause for Muslims to be united in order to deter the United States from launching war against Muslims in Afghanistan,” Hamas official Abdel-Aziz al-Rantissi told Reuters. “It is impossible for Muslims to stand handcuffed and blindfolded while other Muslims, their brothers, are being attacked.”

Since Tuesday’s terrorist attacks that destroyed the World Trade Center in New York and imploded part of the Pentagon outside Washington, Afghanistan begun to feel the heat of an international spotlight.

Much of that focus has centered on the Taliban, an Islamic fundamentalist group that has controlled a majority of Afghanistan since 1995, whose hard-line policies have drawn criticism from Western countries. At present, the Taliban control 90 percent of Afghanistan — all but a small area in the north of the country.

The Taliban has had a rocky relationship with the U.S. since American leaders began demanding the Taliban turn over bin Laden to face trial on charges he masterminded the 1998 bombings of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Following the bombings, the U.S. attacked facilities in Afghanistan and Sudan believed to be controlled by bin Laden. And it was those attacks, according to Taliban envoy Sayed Rahmatullah Hashimi, that elevated bin Laden to star status in Afghanistan.

“He has been made so big,” Hashimi told the NewsHour in March. “Seven thousand children were named after him in only one year in Pakistan: T-shirts with his name, clocks, shoes, everything. He has helped the Afghans with his own personal money — millions of dollars during the Soviet occupation.”

“So for the Afghans,” Hashimi said, “he is a good guy. If we were to hand this good guy to the U.S., what kind of justification will we give to our people?”