Rebels Assault Kunduz; Talks in Doubt

Syed Tayyad Agha said the Taliban would not give up the southern provinces of Afghanistan it still controls, and denied that the series of defeats the regime's troops suffered across the country had left the Taliban a spent force.

"We will try our best and we will defend our nation … and we will not give any chance to anybody to disturb our Islamic rule in Kandahar and other provinces," Agha said.

Omar will stay in the Taliban's southern bastion of Kandahar and the Taliban will fight to the death to defend the southern provinces still under its control, Agha said.

Agha also said the Taliban had lost communication with bin Laden. "We have no idea where he is," Agha said. "There is no relation right now [between bin Laden and the Taliban]. There is no communication."

The Taliban assertion came as a report appeared in the Saudi Arabian press which said the accused terror mastermind told supporters to kill him if it appeared likely he would fall into the hands of the Americans pursuing him.

France to Boost Presence to 5,000 Troops

In other developments:

Some 5,000 French troops will be committed to the U.S.-led military campaign in Afghanistan, a Defense Ministry spokesman said. There will be 2,450 naval and air force personnel involved in the deployment of the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Charles de Gaulle, due to arrive in the Indian Ocean in mid-December. So far, 2,000 French troops have been involved in logistical and intelligence support, with 300 of them takingpart in security and humanitarian aid missions around Mazar-e-Sharif.

Fearing bin Laden and his associates might try to slip out of Afghanistan, U.S. officials announced Wednesday they would stop and board suspect ships off the coast of Pakistan as well as target aircraft trying to escape Afghan airspace.

The United Nations has begun handing out food, blankets and tents in Kabul, but another convoy in western Afghanistan was robbed by commanders who apparently stole the food for their own village. And near the presidential palace Wednesday, two young boys were badly injured in an explosion. Witnesses say they were either playing or collecting wood when they picked up a loaded grenade launcher. It was unclear which of the Afghanistan's many armies left it behind.

New York City officials have sharply reduced the list of people dead and missing in the Sept. 11 attack on the World Trade Center. After comparing various lists of missing persons prevented to various agencies, city officials now say 3,357 people are missing and 594 bodies have been identified. The numbers include those killed on the planes that hit the twin towers. At one time the list of missing and feared dead was about 6,000.

ABCNEWS' John McWethy, Jim Wooten and Don Dahler contributed to this report.

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