Thousands take 'oath of death' : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread

October 11, 2001

Thousands take 'oath of death'

Vow to fight U.S. forces: Pakistan protests evolve into Taliban recruitment drives

Marina Jiménez National Post, with files from news services K.M. Chaudary, The Associated Press

Religious school students in Lahore, Pakistan, chant slogans in support of Afghanistan's Taliban rulers and Osama bin Laden yesterday.

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Outside the Madani mosque under a baking midday sun, hordes of young men in Taliban-style white prayer caps, or khowalis, signed their lives away. They jostled and shoved one another to get to the front of the crowd, anxious to register their names and phone numbers in a large black book -- proof they are now declared jihad warriors against the United States.

"I had 400 men in an hour. I didn't expect such a good turnout," said Mohammed Zahid, a leader with the Islamic Students Organization, which oversaw yesterday's rally in the old bazaar of downtown Peshawar, a northwestern city near the Khyber Pass.

"We will contact the Afghan representative office and cross the border."

Most of the men in the crowd were not Afghans, but Pakistanis, who are forbidden by law from engaging in such activities; the government said yesterday it had "ways" of enforcing the law.

"We are not worried at all about these young men. It is just rhetoric with no substance," said Mohammed Shafiz Zaman, a spokesman with the Ministry of Information. "You can find fanatics in any country, and we can control them. The government's position is clear and we are with the international community in its fight against terrorism."

Many of the jihad registrants share the same Pashtun ethnicity as those in the Taliban government, which has been targeted by the United States because it has refused to hand over Osama bin Laden, the Saudi millionaire, and his al-Qaeda network, suspected of masterminding the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks in Washington and New York.

Outside of Peshawar, there were other reports yesterday of jihad recruitment. In the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, Abdullah Shah Mazhar, a radical Islamic leader, threatened to launch suicide attacks against the United States and "infidel" forces as 5,000 followers took an "oath of death."

Mr. Mazhar, a former leader of the Jaish-e-Mohammad militant group, which has been blamed for terrorist attacks in Kashmir, claimed thousands of supporters of his new group, Tehreek-al-Furqan, were ready to die.

"Some 10,000 fidayeen [kamikaze soldiers] of Tehreek-al-Furqan will carry out the attacks against the U.S. and all the infidel forces," Mr.Mazhar told an anti-U.S. rally.

Later, an estimated 5,000 people took the "oath of death" by raising hands to show their readiness to fight against the United States.

In Peshawar, Abdul Hanan, 18, stood with several friends, smiling broadly at his bold declaration to fight the Northern Alliance, the largest anti-Taliban coalition in the north, but uncertain how exactly he would get to the front lines.

"The Northern Alliance is the same as the U.S. and we declare war on them both. This is a holy war. When the U.S. attacks first hit Afghanistan, I decided I will go and fight," said Mr. Hanan. "I am very sad about the civilian casualties; these are our Islam relatives."

According to Reuters, at least 76 people have been killed in three nights of air raids, 28 of them in the southern Taliban stronghold of Kandahar.

Mr. Zahid, who was also collecting money and encouraging people to donate blood for the cause, said he would contact radical Muslim clerics and Taliban officers here to arrange the journey to the border. Pakistan has sealed the 1,400-kilometre border with Afghanistan, but it is possible to cross without detection in many remote, mountainous areas that are not guarded. "There is no shortage of weapons and facilities for these people once they arrive," he said.

Later, several hundred students led a peaceful march through the narrow lanes and colourful bazaars of the old city, waving white Taliban flags and chanting "Crush America" and "Long live Osama."

There were also reports that 400 Afghan students from a madrassa, or religious seminary, had crossed the border this week to offer support to Taliban soldiers, and that hundreds more were preparing to join the jihad.

There has been a spate of emotional and violent rallies in cities across Pakistan this week to protest the support General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's President, has offered the U.S.-led anti-terrorist efforts. Yesterday, only one incident was reported in the southwest city of Quetta, where a mob of furious Afghan refugees swarmed a convoy of journalists, shouting and waving their arms. Police escorted the journalists to the safety of their hotels. Four demonstrators were killed in riots outside Quetta earlier this week.

In response to the violence in Quetta, the United Nations began pulling out staff from the city yesterday. Rupert Colville, spokes-man for the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), said his organization cut staff in Quetta from 30 to 22 after their offices were burned down in demonstrations this week.

He described the destruction of the offices as "the most serious security incident UNHCR staff have experienced in Pakistan."

"The general security situation is not very good and we are not able to function at full capacity. ... These attacks simply highlight the difficulties."

Gen. Musharraf warned pro-Taliban groups he will take swift action against all lawbreakers, and work to protect public property and keep the peace. The Pakistani government has also vowed to forcibly repatriate any Afghan refugees found taking part in the protests against the Pakistani government. Three of the protesters killed earlier this week in Quetta were Afghan refugees, some of the 2.5 million in the country.

"Refugees are given shelter in this country and they should confine themselves to being refugees and should not start any political agitation," said Aziz Ahmad Khan, a Foreign Ministry spokesman.

The Taliban continued to make defiant statements yesterday, saying America would never be safe until it stops the air strikes. Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Taliban's envoy to Pakistan, said the Northern Alliance had failed to make advances against the Taliban forces.

"Mr. Bush's claim that they have destroyed the defence capability of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan is not true," said Mr. Zaeef, although he acknowledged the United States has air superiority. The United States is combining air raids with a humanitarian effort, dropping packets of food into Afghanistan from planes. But the Taliban said yesterday the Afghans were burning the packets, rather than eating the food.

-- Martin Thompson (, October 11, 2001


Seems hardened fighters and comanders are leaving while the kids are joining. Works for me! JB ---------------- Afghan Envoy: Taliban Troops Defecting By John J. Lumpkin Associated Press Writer

Thursday, Oct. 11, 2001; 2:22 a.m. EDT

WASHINGTON –– A Washington-based envoy for rebel forces in Afghanistan says his group welcomes defecting troops from the Taliban government and is willing to bribe Taliban commanders to change sides as well.

"We have no objection in trying to bribe the Taliban," Haron Amin said Wednesday in an interview with The Associated Press. "Bribing other commanders is one the tools of the Taliban in the past."

Switching sides is as common as war in the Central Asian nation, where U.S. military strikes are paving the way for possible rebel advances. Indeed, Amin's northern alliance – or United Front – claims it has attracted more than a thousand Taliban defectors so far.

Amin described the alliance's plan to retake parts of Afghanistan, laying out a four-pronged ground offensive in the country's northern and western regions, all into areas where military facilities have been targeted by U.S.-led air strikes since Sunday.

One force would push south from Bagram toward Kabul. A second would attack west toward Taloqan and Konduz. A third force would attempt to take Mazar-e-Sharif from the south. A fourth would strike east into Herat. He gave no timetable for the offensive.

Alliance officials say they do not want to capture Kabul too quickly to keep from provoking ethnic Pashtun leaders in the south who lost power when the Taliban took over the government in 1996. If the Pashtun perceived a power grab in the capital by the alliance that didn't include them, they might throw their support to the Taliban, said Ali Jalali, a former Afghan fighter who now works for the Voice of America in Washington.

Before the bombing began Sunday, forces of the ruling Taliban numbered about 45,000 troops and were better equipped than the rebels, who have fewer than 20,000 troops and control of about 10 percent of the country.

So far, alliance officials say, an estimated 1,200 Taliban soldiers and 40 officers have defected in the Baghlan province of Afghanistan, closing a major north-south road the Taliban had used to supply its forces from Kabul. Apparently cut off are Taliban forces in far northern Afghanistan, near Taloqan and Konduz.

"There are clear signs of Taliban disarray," Amin said.

But not every Taliban foe can be turned by bribery or fear. Some core Afghan troops, motivated by Taliban ideology above all else, likely will fight to the death, as will foreign forces that are a part of Osama bin Laden's al-Qaida network, U.S. officials and experts say.

Perhaps most famous of these units are the veteran Arab fighters of the 55th Brigade, which spearheaded the Taliban's capture of Mazar-e- Sharif several years ago and last week launched an attack out of Taloqan that Amin said was repelled by alliance forces.

The rebel forces aren't planning to attack in southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan, which are dominated by ethnic Pashtuns. There, the CIA likely will try to incite an anti-Taliban revolt, said Michael Vickers, a retired Green Beret and CIA officer in South Asia. He's now with the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a Washington think tank.

"The Pashtun areas are really the key to the end game," Vickers said.

Elsewhere, however, defections and bribery will work well, he said. The Taliban bribed opposing commanders to win several battles in its rapid drive in 1994 to conquer most of Afghanistan.

Switching sides in a conflict is not considered dishonorable, Vickers said. Loyalties are to one's immediate clan leaders and family, so groups that switch sides en masse to follow defecting leader is not uncommon.

Northern alliance envoy Daoud Mir said his group has "good intelligence" on which Taliban officers are likely to defect.

"In light of Islamic teachings, defections are welcome," his colleague Amin said. "We will declare amnesty for anyone who would want to join us."

What would follow the fall of the Taliban is uncertain. U.S. officials haven't stated any preference for a new government. The exiled King Mohammad Zaher Shah is working to convene an assembly of tribal leaders in the Afghan capital once a cease-fire has been secured.

Alliance envoys Mir and Amin welcomed the idea of a transitional government sharing power between the alliance, the king's supporters and other tribes.

Burhanuddin Rabbani, whose exiled Afghan government is recognized by the United Nations, said Wednesday in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, that all tribes should be represented in any post-Taliban government, as long as they have no blood on their hands. But Rabbani refrained from endorsing the exiled king as a unifying force.

-- Jackson Brown (, October 11, 2001.

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