Omar is in Afghan south, says Pakistan

Pakistan said yesterday it was likely that the Taliban's fugitive chief, Mullah Mohammad Omar, was in southern Afghanistan and leading the insurgency against Afghan, US and NATO-led forces from there.

A Taliban spokesman captured in Afghanistan last week claimed that Omar was living in Pakistan under the protection of its main spy agency.

Tasnim Aslam, Pakistan's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, rejected the claim and said Omar was most probably in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar.

"We have very regular meetings, intelligence sharing with the US, to some extent with Afghans. Nobody has any information about the whereabouts of Mullah Omar," she told a weekly news conference in Islamabad.

"But, generally, the likely scenario is that he is in Kandahar where he's marshalling his fighters."

Pakistan was the Taliban's main backer until the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, whereupon it joined the American-led war on terrorism.

But Afghan anger at Taliban infiltration from Pakistan has seriously strained ties between the two US allies.

The American military has reported a sharp increase in the number of Taliban attacks from Pakistan, where they say the Taliban's command and control is based in lawless tribal areas.

Pakistan, battling militants in its tribal lands along the border, acknowledges that some are slipping into Afghanistan, but says the Taliban are an Afghan problem, feeding on poverty and anger with the government over corruption.

Last year, Afghanistan saw the bloodiest period of insurgency since US-led forces ousted the Taliban. More than 4,000 people were killed.

Aslam said terrorist activities were originating in Afghan refugee camps near the border and asked the international community to help relocate them inside Afghanistan.

Source:China Daily/Agencies

People's Daily Online ---