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Afghan Islamic Clerics Ask Osama Bin Laden to Leave Voluntarily - 2001-09-20


Afghanistan's Islamic clerics have recommended that the Taleban leadership ask Osama bin Laden, a prime suspect in last week's terrorist attacks in the United States, to leave Afghanistan voluntarily.

The clerics issued an edict today (Thursday) after two days of meetings in Kabul to discuss the fate of Mr. bin Laden and the U-S threat of retaliatory military strikes.

The edict does not set a deadline, but says the Saudi exile should should leave within a reasonable time.

The edict says the clerics expressed sadness over the loss of life in the United States, but hope that Washington will not launch attacks against Afghanistan.

It says if the United States attacks Afghanistan, a jihad or holy war will become incumbent on all Muslims in accordance with Islamic law (sharia)

The clerics called for independent investigations by the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Conference into terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Wednesday, the Taleban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar said Mr. bin Laden should not be extradited without proper evidence. He accused Washington of using the allegations against the Taleban "guest" as a pretext to destroy the Islamic government of Afghanistan.

President Bush has repeatedly said the battle against terrorism is not a war against the people of Afghanistan or the Muslim faith. But he said the United States will hunt down terrorists and also punish those who shelter them.

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