Taliban, Pakistan Reject US Requests To Combat Terrorism

AP, January 26, 2000

ISLAMABAD (AP)--Afghanistan's ruling Taliban and the hardline leaders of Pakistan have rebuffed U.S. appeals to crack down on terrorism, and one militant group warned Tuesday of a violent backlash if they tried.

On a visit to the region last week, a top U.S. envoy urged the outlawing of a group accused of hijacking an Indian plane last month and also that steps be taken to bring terror suspect Osama bin Laden to justice.

Of particular concern to the U.S. is Harkat ul-Mujahedeen, the successor to a Pakistani-based organization that has been declared a terrorist group by Washington.

A spokesman for a sister organization, Harkat ul-Jehad, warned of violence if the government tried to close the group's offices in Pakistan.

"We will not hesitate to take any action and believe me there will be a free-for-all here in Pakistan. It will be anarchy," Abu Mahmood Ashraf said.

He said that his group trains in Pakistan and Afghanistan to fight in Kashmir and "in other Muslim countries where Muslims are being attacked."

Ashraf also called bin Laden a hero to Muslims worldwide. "Any injury or his death would be a great shock to us and we would not stop until we have severely punished the United States," he said.

India accuses Harkat ul-Mujahedeen of staging the Indian Airlines hijacking that ended with the freeing of 155 hostages in exchange for the Indian government's release of three members of the group.

Pakistan has strongly condemned the hijacking, and U.S. President Bill Clinton said Tuesday there was no evidence that Pakistan supported it. But State Department spokesman James P. Rubin cited concerns for some time "that agencies of the Pakistani government have provided general support to a number of groups operating in Kashmir, including Harkat ul-Mujahedeen."

U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Karl Inderfurth discussed terrorism concerns last week when he met ruling Gen. Pervez Musharraf and other leaders of Pakistan.

"We hope that the government of Pakistan will take steps against such extremist groups which carry out acts of violence inside Pakistan, as well as in the region," Inderfurth said, specifically naming Harkat ul-Mujahedeen.

Pakistan didn't promise to crack down on such groups. What Inderfurth got was a statement sharing Washington's concern about terrorism.

The U.S. also has asked Pakistan, one of only three countries to recognize the Taliban, to use its influence against bin Laden.

Wakil Ahmed Muttawakil, the Taliban's foreign minister, said Monday that bin Laden won't be extradited or handed over to the U.S. or a third country for trial. Taliban leaders had met with Inderfurth, but of further discussions with the U.S., Muttawakil said, "We don't want to talk to them."

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