Taliban abandon surrender plan after 'prophetic dream'

War on Terrorism: Kandahar
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The Independent Online

The Taliban have abandoned plans to surrender their spiritual heartland in Kandahar because of a prophetic dream Mullah Mohammed Omar had, according to the brother of a senior opposition figure.

The southern city of Kandahar was where the Taliban first emerged, and Kandahar is where they are making what could be their last stand. With Kunduz in the north, Kandahar is one of only two cities in Afghanistan still under Taliban control, and Mullah Omar, the one-eyed commander considered by the Taliban to be the supreme leader of all Muslims, is believed to be inside the city.

Recent reports suggested that Mullah Omar, facing almost certain defeat, had agreed to surrender Kandahar. But yesterday Ahmad Karzai, whose brother Hamid has been negotiating with the Taliban for the surrender of the city, said Mullah Omar had changed his mind because he had had a prophetic dream in which he remained in power. "I have had a dream in which I am in charge for as long as I live," Mr Karzai quoted Mullah Omar as saying.

But there were reports that thousands of Taliban were fleeing across the border south into Pakistan. Unlike in Kunduz, where they are surrounded by Northern Alliance forces and trapped, in Kandahar the Taliban can easily escape. There were reports yesterday that 3,000 may have fled into Pakistan. That will raise fears of instability spreading from Afghanistan into Pakistan. It is a possibility many Afghans, bitter at the Pakistan government's earlier backing for the Taliban, speak of with relish. But it will make the blood of Western governments run cold – Pakistan is a nuclear power.

Kandahar is the main city of the ethnic, Pashtun-dominated south, where the Northern Alliance, who swept through most of the country including the capital Kabul, have no support. The Americans have instead backed opposition Pashtun warlords. That tactic looked to be going horribly wrong when Abdul Haq was captured by the Taliban and hanged in Kabul. But now the opposition warlords have swept the Taliban from power in much of the south, on the back of Kabul's fall.

Mullah Omar had reportedly agreed to withdraw the Taliban into the hills and surrender control of Kandahar to Mullah Naqibullah and Haji Bashar, former mujahideen commanders who fought against the Soviets. But the Taliban insisted they were still in control in Kandahar.