Osama bin Laden, a major instigator of anti-U.S. terrorism and top suspect in the August 7 bombings of U.S. embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, has allegedly lost favor with Afghanistan's extremist Taliban regime. The Taliban has been harboring the fugitive in Afghanistan since last August and has refused to turn him over to the U.S. for prosecution.
U.S. and Taliban officials reported that a violent fight broke out when Taliban officers attempted to replace bin Laden's personal bodyguards on February 10. The ten Taliban officers were assigned to watch bin Laden so that he could not attempt to "contact any foreigner or use any communication system in Afghanistan." The Taliban confiscated bin Laden's satellite phones and forced him out of the city of Kandahar. "He has been told no foreigner can talk to him....He is now isolated," said senior Taliban official Abdul Hakeem Mujahid.
A senior U.S. official noted that the "friction" between the Taliban and bin Laden is "a good sign." Although Taliban officials still maintain that they will never him over to the U.S., their desire to protect him may be waning. Mujahid commented that bin Laden's presence in Afghanistan "is not a benefit to the people."
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