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Sat, Nov 24, 2001 - Page 5 News List

Whereabouts of the Taliban's supreme leader still unknown

REUTERS , CHAMAN, PAKISTAN

The embattled Taliban sent out conflicting signals yesterday on the whereabouts of their supreme leader Mullah Mohammad Omar, with one official saying he was in hiding and another quoted as saying the report was false.

Mullah Sayed Mohammad Haqqani, Taliban security official in charge at the Afghan border town of Spin Boldak, said the reclusive Taliban leader had gone into hiding and appointed a deputy to run the affairs of the fundamentalist militia.

He said the decision was taken after a meeting of the top leadership of the Taliban on Thursday in their southern stronghold, Kandahar.

"Mullah Omar has shifted to an unknown place for security reasons," Haqqani said.

But the private Pakistan-based Afghan Islamic Press (AIP) news agency later quoted Mullah Omar's spokesman as saying the report was false.

"The report that Mullah Omar has gone into hiding is false and baseless. He is still in Kandahar and still has contact with his fighters," spokesman Tayab Agha was quoted as telling AIP by telephone.

AIP said Agha also denied that Mullah Omar had appointed Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Usmani as his deputy, reversing an earlier AIP story that said Agha confirmed the appointment.

Agha repeated that the Taliban was no longer in contact with militant fugitive Osama bin Laden.

"He is not in our area and we have no contact with Osama bin Laden," Agha said.

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