U.S. Rejects New Taliban Offer

ByABC News

Oct. 14, 2001 -- The United States today rejected yet another offer by Afghanistan's ruling Taliban to turn over Osama bin Laden for trial in a third country if the U.S. presents evidence against bin Laden and stops air attacks.

President Bush reiterated the position the U.S. has held since fingering bin Laden and his al Queda organization as masterminding the for the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

"There's no need to discuss it," Bush said. "We know he's guilty. Just turn him over. … There's nothing to negotiate about. They're harboring a terrorist and they need to turn him over."

The U.S. military, at times joined by British forces, has been conducting air strikes on targets in Afghanistan for over a week as part of the administration's efforts to capture bin Laden and his associates.

"There's no discussions. I've told them what they need to do," Bush said today, hammering away at the same theme he has often repeated over the last month. "When I said no negotiations, I meant no negotiations."

For the U.S. to halt the bombing, Bush said, the Taliban must turn over bin Laden and the members of his al Qaeda network hiding in Afghanistan, destroy any terrorist camps and release any "hostages" they may hold.

More than 5,000 people died when two hijacked airliners slammed into the World Trade Center towers, another was was flown into the Pentagon and a fourth crashed in a field in Pennsylvania. Investigators identified 19 Arab men as the alleged hijackers on the four planes.

Taliban Deputy Prime Minister Haji Abdul Kabir told reporters in Jalalabad, Afghanistan that the regime was willing to turn over bin Laden to a third country that would never "come under pressure from the United States," according to The Associated Press.

U.S. officials have dismissed statements from the regime, which has at various times claimed bin Laden had left the country, was hiding in a location unknown even to the Taliban, was "under the control" of the regime and was free to lead a jihad or holy war from the country.

U.S Strikes; Al Qaeda Threats

U.S. jets reportedly hit targets in the Afghan capital of Kabul and three other cities today. Eyewitnesses tell ABCNEWS that tonight's attacks appear to be targeted at the Taliban's front lines. Jets hit military targets in southern Kandahar, Herat in western Afghanistan and Jalalabad to the east.

The latest wave of attacks came after al Qaeda, bin Laden's organization, warned top U.S., British and Israeli leaders that their "blood will be avenged" and advised Muslims in America and Britain to stay out of high rises and planes.

In a videotaped statement aired Saturday by Qatar's Al-Jazeera satellite channel, al Qaeda spokesman Sulaiman Abu Ghaith threatened retaliation for the military assault on Afghanistan. Ghaith singled out President Bush; his father, former President George H.W. Bush; former President Bill Clinton; British Prime Minister Tony Blair; and Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon.

Al Qaeda, Ghaith said, declares that those men "are the top Zionists and crusaders criminals who committed the worst atrocities against the Muslim Umma [nation]: killing millions of innocent Muslim women, men and children. Their blood will be avenged from these criminals."

The Bush administration called the threats "just more propaganda."

‘He Is Invisible’

Britain's Sunday Mirror newspaper quoted bin Laden's 18-year old son — one of his 42 children — as saying his father was hiding in a cave in the Afghan mountains with 300 commandos and would never be caught.

According to the Mirror, bin Laden's son Abdullah said his father had disappeared with 60 trucks filled with satellite equipment on Sept. 11, the day of the suicide hijack attacks on New York and Washington.

"America and Britain will never track down my father," the son said in the interview. "He has vanished into the landscape, he is invisible."

Latest U.S. Strikes

The bombing overnight cut a major part of Kabul's communications links with the rest of the world, Taliban officials said today.

Some of the other strikes were focused on Jalalabad, a key target for U.S. fighters because of the guerrilla training camps that have surrounded it.

Witnesses reported that U.S. jets hit the town at night with bombs, some aimed at military bases. The first strikes hit an army installation in the east of the city, injuring at least six people, the private Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) said.

"America has just wasted another $1,000," laughed one Taliban fighter as the last bomb fell, according to Reuters. "All of Afghanistan is filled with mountains and rocks. There is nothing else. America will find nothing."

The bombs struck as a convoy of foreign reporters was on its way to the city, the first foreign nationals to be allowed into Afghanistan since all foreigners were ordered to leave just days after the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Errant Bomb Falls

The Defense Department is investigating what happened when a 2,000-pound bomb aimed at a helicopter at Kabul Airport went astray and hit a neighborhood during an airstrike early Saturday.

"We regret the loss of any civilian life," the department said in a written statement. "U.S. forces are intentionally striking only military and terrorist targets. They take great care in their targeting process to avoid civilian casualties."

The department said there was no accurate way of measuring the number of casualties, though reports from the ground indicated four deaths and eight injured.

It appeared that incorrect coordinates were entered on the missile's guidance system during the attack, according to the Pentagon statement.

Taliban Woos Opposition

In other developments: The Taliban is calling on opposition forces to join in the fight against the United States and its allies. Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar reportedly has issued orders to his troops not to seize weapons from captured opposition forces and to offer them amnesty if they join the country's defense.

"We will forget the past problems with those people who join us because now it is the question of our religion and country," Taliban intelligence chief Qari Ahmadullah said in an interview with the Afghan Islamic Press.

The trial of eight foreign aid workers accused of promoting Christianity in Afghanistan resumed today. The lawyer for the aid workers, two of whom are Americans, was set to present their defense.

Secretary of State Colin Powell is heading to India and Pakistan this weekend on his first trip since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The goal of the mission is to ease tensions between the two nuclear rivals that grew out of a suicide attack that killed 40 people in Indian-held Kashmir on Oct. 1.

New York City officials estimate the number of missing and presumed dead at the World Trade Center is 4,688. The number of confirmed dead is 445, and 388 have been identified. At the Pentagon, 189 were believed killed and another 44 were killed when the fourth hijacked jet, United Airlines Flight 93, crashed in Pennsylvania.

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