- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 12, 2001

QUETTA, Pakistan A top adviser to incoming Afghan leader Hamid Karzai said yesterday that Osama bin Laden belongs before an international tribunal but that Afghanistan would insist on trying Mullah Mohammed Omar in its own courts should he be captured alive.
"With Osama, the world community is chasing him as a terrorist, so the world community should put him on trial," said Abdul Khaliq, who fought the Soviets alongside Mr. Karzai and most recently led negotiations with dozens of Afghan tribal leaders that preceded the Taliban surrender of Kandahar.
As for the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Omar, "he is an Afghani," Mr. Khaliq said.
"We will establish a tribunal in Afghanistan that he must face."
"If they are in Afghanistan, we will find them," Mr. Khaliq said at his home in Quetta, where he was making final preparations before joining Mr. Karzai in Kandahar.
Mr. Karzai negotiated Kandahar's surrender Friday, installed a transition government of local commanders Saturday and reopened the road to Quetta on Sunday, connecting the besieged city to the outside world.
The world focused yesterday on bin Laden's suspected hide-out in the mountains of eastern Afghanistan, with local ground troops closing in on cave complexes after a pounding by U.S. jets.
In Kandahar, local troops backed by U.S. Marines and American air power continued equally intense efforts to run down Mullah Omar, who triggered the U.S.-led strikes by refusing to turn over bin Laden after the September 11 attacks on the United States.
One Taliban leader said this week that Mullah Omar had left Kandahar, where he has been based since the birth of his hard-line Islamist militia in the early 1990s.
U.S. officials have said they are certain that both Mullah Omar and bin Laden are still in Afghanistan.
Mr. Karzai initially offered "amnesty" to the black-bearded mullah if he would renounc terrorism. The offer drew immediate protests from Washington but became moot when Mullah Omar did not respond.
Mr. Karzai then vowed to hunt him down as a terrorist who had destroyed Afghanistan.
In Kandahar yesterday, die-hard followers of the mullah seized a hospital and held its patients hostage.
"There are civilian patients inside the hospital," a commander loyal to the city's new governor, Gul Agha, told the Reuters news agency. The commander said that Hafiz Majid, a top aide to Mullah Omar, was leading a group of fighters barricaded in the Chinese Hospital.
"Even if [Majid] surrenders, he won't be forgiven. Somebody will kill him," said the commander, who asked not to be identified. He also said there were Taliban fighters holding out at Sperwan, a village about 22 miles west of Kandahar.
The Taliban surrendered Kandahar on Friday under siege from tribal fighters, and Mr. Karzai has spent the days since attempting to negotiate peace between rival commanders.
The new national leader, chosen by a U.N.-sponsored conference of Afghans with support from the exiled former king, Mohammed Zahir Shah, has said he wants to complete a peaceful transfer of power in Kandahar before heading to Kabul, where he is to be inaugurated Dec. 22 as Afghanistan's de facto prime minister.

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