Afghanistan's fundamentalist, repressive Taliban regime claims that U.S. embassy bombing suspect Osama bin Laden survived the recent U.S. missile strikes and has pledged to continue protecting him.
Ayman Al-Zawahiri, head of an Egyptian Islamic Jihad organization, reported "bin Laden calls on Muslim Ummah (community) to continue Jihad ("holy" war) against Jews and Americans to liberate their holy places. In the meanwhile, he denies any involvement in the Nairobi and Dar es Salaam bombings." Bin Laden opposes U.S. support for Jewish Israel and the U.S. military's presence in the cities of Mecca and Medina, which hold Islamic shrines.
The Taliban has placed Afghan women under virtual house arrest through a series of decrees based on its own harsh interpretation of Islam. Under the Taliban, women cannot leave their homes without a close male relative. Once making up half the nation's doctors, women are now forbidden from working or attending school, and do not have access to adequate healthcare.
Under the Taliban's rule, much of Afghanistan's secular-minded population has been forced to flee the country, while Islamic radicals from other nations, many of whom have significant wealth and influence, have flocked there. A former Afghan diplomat told the Washington Post "There were many wonderful people in the Taliban, many moderate and patriotic people, but the control from the outside, the interference from Pakistan and the radical Arabs made it hard for the moderates to stay there and help."
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