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Kabul Claims Osama Bin Laden Had Nothing To Do With Attack

Aired September 11, 2001 - 12:29   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
JUDY WOODRUFF, CNN ANCHOR: So we are just, again, trying to get our minds around the magnitude of what these people have gotten away with.

Nic Robertson, a correspondent, joining us now on the telephone.

Nic, you are in Kabul. Is that correct?

Nic, are you hearing me right now?

NIC ROBERTSON, CNN CORRESPONDENT: That's correct, Judy. And we just had -- yes, Judy, I hear you fine.

We are here in Mulla Omar, in the spiritual capital of Afghanistan, about 300 miles south. Mulla Omar is the spiritual leader of the Taliban here, and he's recently issued a short statement.

In that statement he criticizes what he called an act of terrorism. He was very explicit, he said that Osama Bin Laden was not responsible for it. He said that all he wanted for his country was peace, and peace for other countries in the world.

But he went on to say that he believes Osama Bin Laden could not have been responsible for such a complex act of terrorism. He also said that if Afghanistan is a poor country, and therefore he believes that there's no way Afghanistan could be involved in such a complicated act of terrorism. Judy.

WOODRUFF: Nic, help us understand who is Mulla Omar, the gentleman you are quoting?

ROBERTSON: He is the spiritual leader of the Taliban. The Taliban runs 95 percent of Afghanistan. They control the capital Kabul, they control most of Afghanistan, the south of Afghanistan. Mulla Omar lives in the south of Afghanistan, in the spiritual capital, which is the ethic area that he comes from, the Pashtun area around Kandahar.

There are ministries of the Taliban here in Kabul. The foreign minister is here in Kabul at the moment. He is often based in Kandahar as well. And there are other ministry officials also based in Kabul. But the direction for Afghanistan, the direction for the ministry, the key decisions are all made in Kandahar, and Mulla Omar is the focal point of all of those decisions. It is to him that a key group of ministers would go with a problem, with an issue, and it is he that would decide on any given issue. He is the final arbiter here of law and of justice. Judy.

WOODRUFF: Nic, where is it believed that Osama Bin Laden is in Afghanistan?

ROBERTSON: That is a very difficult question to answer. Osama Bin Laden, his location is kept extremely secret. As far as media traveling around Afghanistan, one is often watched, and an eye is kept on us by various ministries to ensure that we don't go searching around the country. Our movements around the country are generally restricted to main cities that are agreed in advance by the authorities.

So, it's very difficult to gauge where Osama Bin Laden is. It is understood that he travels around at night. It is understood that he has operated out of various training camps that were built to help train Mujahedeen fighters to fight the Soviet occupation in 1980s. Those were based, some of them, towards the border with Pakistan in an area called Host. Those were the training camps that were hit in 1998 cruise missile attack on Afghanistan.

It's also rumored that Osama Bin Laden spent some time close to Kandahar, close to the spiritual leader of the Taliban, Mulla Omar. But to exactly put a fix on his location is a very, very difficult thing to do. He works by extreme secrecy, there are very few journalists that are able or have been able to meet with him over the last few years, are always held at a location, and taken blindfold to another location where they can interview him. So people generally when they meet him, they don't know exactly where they are.

They wait there, he arrives, he departs, then they are free to leave. He lives by extreme secrecy here.

WOODRUFF: All right. CNN's Nic Robertson joining us, as you could see, from Kabul, Afghanistan. The country run by the religious group the Taliban, the group that has been suspected, believed for some time of harboring Osama Bin Laden.

Thank you very much, Nic. Again, we apologize for the delay in the audio there. It is because Nic is on this videophone, which is a new device that we are using, and there is always a delay, tends to be a delay in audio.

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