Taliban will handle US, our target is Kashmir: Lashkar
29 November 2001
The Indian Express
Quetta: The US must stockpile bodybags if American troops try to launch a ground assault on the Taliban''s stronghold of Kandahar, according to a recruiter of jihad fighters belonging to the terrorist outfit Lashkar-e-Taiba. Thousands of Taliban fighters in Kandahar city are bracing themselves for the arrival of the Americans, while many more are hiding out in the mountains around the Islamic militia''s southern stronghold, said Abu Usama, Baluchistan provincial chief of the Islamic group Markezaldawa Irshad Lashkar-e-Taiba. One of the most hardline militant groups based in Pakistan, Lashkar-e-Taiba has launched attacks against Indian security forces in Kashmir, at times involving fanatical suicide squads believed to have been trained in Afghanistan. Its recruits are trained in how to use a Kalashnikov, bombs, rocket launchers and mines, according to Usama. He told AFP that offers by his organisation to send more jihad fighters to Afghanistan had been rejected by the Taliban. ''They do not need any more. There are many, many thousands of Taliban ready to save Kandahar,'' he said. ''There are more in the mountains, not just in Kandahar but in Kabul, Jalalabad,'' he added. ''There is a very strong chance that if the American commandos reach Kandahar there will be many dead bodies in the streets. There is no chance that they (the Taliban) will withdraw. They want to fight for Kandahar against their enemies.'' Despite the death of many foreign jihad fighters at the hands of Northern Alliance troops and the US-led bombing campaign in Afghanistan, Usama insisted that there was no shortage of Muslims ready to give up their life for what they saw as a just cause. ''They feel it is their duty to fight against these terrorist forces (who are) against Islam and Islamic government,'' he said. The Taliban militia lost control of Takhtapul district over the weekend, cutting off the main road from Kandahar city to the Afghan-Pakistan border. There have also been reports that it has lost control of the border town of Spin Boldak. But Usama, a frequent visitor to Kandahar during the seven weeks of US bombings, said that the Taliban would seize back control of areas that it had lost. ''Those tribals who control the road from Kandahar to Spin Boldak are very weak. They are not belonging to the Northern Alliance and the other tribals in the area are against those people.'' Usama said that, in the absence of a request for help from the Taliban, his fighters would now concentrate in Kashmir. India voiced fears on Tuesday that that members of the al- Qaeda network of Osama bin Laden would flee to Kashmir following the fall of the Taliban regime. ''A movement by the terrorists towards Kashmir is always possible,'' India''s Ambassador to France Kanwal Sibal had said.