- Thousands of non-Afghan Islamic militants from more than
two dozen countries are vowing to fight to the death alongside Osama bin
Laden and the Taliban leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, say Afghan sources
- Some 3,000 Arab fighters from 13 Arab countries who are
based in Afghanistan have taken oaths of loyalty to bin Laden in recent
- But there are thought to be thousands more who have taken
refuge over the past three years from Russia, Pakistan, China, Iran,
Asia and the Far East who would also fight for the Taliban.
- Tens of thousands of Pakistani Islamic militants have
fought for the Taliban and at present 4,000 Pakistani militants are part
of the 25,000-strong Taliban force in north-eastern Afghanistan resisting
the opposition United Front. More Pakistani militants are crossing the
border to join the coming war against America.
- They include fighters from the Pakistani-Kashmiri group
Harakat ul-Mujheddin, which has been declared a terrorist group by America,
and from Jaish-e-Mohammed, whose bomb killed 38 people in Kashmir on
Britain has designated both groups terrorist organisations.
- The Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan (IMU) has bases in
three Taliban-controlled cities in northern Afghanistan and 2,500 to 3,000
fighters, most of whom are at present fighting for the Taliban.
- The IMU aims to topple the regime of President Islam
Karimov of Uzbekistan and bring about an Islamic revolution in central
- In 1999 and last year the IMU launched attacks into
and Kyrgyzstan from its bases in Afghanistan in an effort to set up a
area in the Ferghana valley, which straddles three central Asian states
and is the most volatile and vulnerable part of the region.
- Bin Laden has helped to fund and arm the IMU, buying
two Russian-made helicopters and sophisticated night-fighting and
equipment for it.
- Uzbekistan's agreement to let US aircraft and special
forces use bases in the south of the country is understood to be on the
understanding that the US-led coalition will also target the IMU.
- Russia, meanwhile, is anxious to get at the
nexus. The Taliban are the only ruling group to recognise the government
of the breakaway Chechen Republic and hundreds of Chechens are enlisted
with the Taliban.
- Bin Laden has used the Chechen heroin-smuggling network
that extends to Russia and eastern Europe to expand his fund-raising
- Chechen rebel leaders have sent their families to
to escape the Russian military operation and their sons are studying in
madrassas (religious schools) in Pakistan and Afghanistan.
- Iran loathes the Taliban and will be happy to see America
topple the regime, not least because two Iranian opposition groups have
been given sanctuary in Afghanistan.
- The Iraq-based Mujaheddin-e-Khalq has training facilities
in Kandahar, while the small Ahl-e-Sunnah Wal Jamaat, made up of Sunni
Iranians opposed to the Shia regime in Teheran, provides fighters for the
Taliban from its base in the western city of Herat.
- Hundreds of Uighurs from China's only Muslim majority
province of Xinjiang are also training and fighting with the Taliban. Last
year, as the Taliban tried to improve relations with China through the
intercession of Pakistan, the Taliban moved the Uighurs from front lines
outside Kabul, where they were most visible, and ordered them north to
join up with the IMU.
- The Taliban then denied to a Chinese delegation visiting
Kabul that they were using Uighur militants. Since the September 11
China has moved troops into Xinjiang to prevent any attacks by Uighur
and has made large-scale arrests. China's borders with both Pakistan and
Afghanistan have been sealed.
- Bin Laden has taken a keen interest in developing links
with the Uighurs and central Asian militants as he tries to expand his
network northwards. Also training and fighting for the Taliban are small
numbers of Islamic militants from Indonesia, the Philippines, Malaysia
- With widespread defections depleting the Taliban forces,
Mullah Omar has become increasingly dependent on these foreign fighters.
In turn, they know they have nowhere to go, because if they return to their
own countries they will be executed.
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