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Friday, 14 September, 2001, 10:56 GMT 11:56 UK
Taleban defiant over Bin Laden
Taleban's Pakistan ambassador Abdul Salam Zaeef
Taleban leaders fear an attack by the US
Afghanistan's ruling Taleban have warned the United States not to rush to any judgements about who was behind the attacks in New York and Washington.

The reclusive Taleban leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, said Mr Bin Laden could not have masterminded the attacks because he lacked the capacity do so.

Where are Osama's pilots and where were they trained?

Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar

The Taleban says it will only consider extraditing Mr Bin Laden if the US provides "solid and convincing" evidence of his involvement in terrorism.

Mullah Omar's statement comes as Afghanistan is bracing itself for possible military retaliation from the US.

The Taleban has denied reports that Mr Bin Laden is under house arrest, but said it had restricted his contact with the outside world, thus making it difficult for him to run any kind of global network.

A US fleet is already stationed in the Indian Ocean
The Taleban representative in Pakistan said Mr Bin Laden had no fax, internet connection or satellite phones.

Earlier, in his first statement since the attacks, Mullah Omar said: "The incidents which took place in America are testimony to Osama Bin Laden's innocence because where are Osama's pilots and where were they trained?"

But the BBC's Susannah Price in Islamabad says the denials are unlikely to convince the US, which has labelled Osama Bin Laden as their prime suspect and says he controls a huge international network.

Millions of people live here many of who may not like the Taleban or Bin Laden

Kabul resident
A new US Government report, dated the day before the attacks, says Mr Bin Laden's organisation has a network of 3,000 Islamic militants in cells in 34 countries and has become "a global threat to US citizens".

The Associated Press quotes congressional Research Service estimates that Mr Bin Laden has $300m in personal assets.

Paying the price

Ordinary Afghans fear they will be made to pay the price for the fact that their leaders are hiding Mr Bin Laden, now the most wanted man in the world.

"A civilised country like the US should not resort to revenge like striking Afghanistan as millions of people live here many of who may not like the Taleban or Bin Laden," Reuters quoted a teacher as saying.

Kabul residents have said Muslim militants, known as Afghan Arabs, have fled the capital and others have started digging trenches around the city.

Hairdresser in Kabul
Ordinary Afghans fear they will bear the brunt of any attack
And amid the fears of a US operation, diplomats representing eight foreign aid workers on trial for spreading Christianity have also left the city for Pakistan.

The US has previously described Afghanistan as a "school for terrorists". Muslim militants from the Middle East, Philippines, Central Asia and China have trained there.

Militants are now reported to have evacuated their bases around the country.

The BBC's John Simpson said a source who had met Mr Bin Laden just two days ago said the Saudi dissident had been stripped of all of his complicated and sophisticated communications equipment.

An aide for Mr Bin Laden quoted him as denying he had planned the attack, but calling it a "punishment from Allah".

"I have no information about the attackers or their aims and I don't have any links with them," the aide quoted Mr Bin Laden as saying.

The BBC's Adam Brookes
"The Taleban deny that Osama Bin Laden was behind the carnage"
The BBC's John Simpson
"I don't think the Taleban have the faintest idea of what will happen to them"
Taleban Amb. to Pakistan Abdul Salam Zaeef
"It is not possible for Bin Laden to carry out such an operation"
See also:

14 Sep 01 | Americas
Senate agrees $40bn aid package
12 Sep 01 | South Asia
Bin Laden denies blame
14 Sep 01 | Americas
Bin Laden's command structure
06 Sep 01 | South Asia
Confusion over Afghan aid trial
12 Sep 01 | South Asia
Taleban tense as US seeks targets
11 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who is Osama Bin Laden?
14 Sep 01 | South Asia
Aid agencies warn of Afghan crisis
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