Osama Is Alive And Well, Say Posters

Osama bin Laden was at Tora Bora when U.S. aircraft began bombing on Nov. 30. but escaped because U.S. ground troops were not sent to pursue the al Qaeda leader, The Washington Post reported Wednesday, citing intelligence officials. 020417, GD
Posters plastered on poles and walls in the area along Afghanistan's border with Pakistan declare that Osama bin Laden is alive and urge the faithful to wage war against the U.S.-led coalition.

"I am alive. My friend, Mullah Omar, is alive and it is the duty of all Muslims to wage a war on non-Muslims," the posters read, referring to the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar.

Meanwhile, officials say the number of people detained by countries outside the U.S. during the sweep for terror suspects is approaching 2,500. The U.S. military has an additional 600 suspected al Qaeda and Taliban detainees of its own, in Guantanamo Bay Cuba and Afghanistan.

It was impossible to determine whether the posters were really from bin Laden or from followers using his name to rally Taliban and al Qaeda sympathizers. Both bin Laden and Mullah Omar have been the subjects of intense manhunts by U.S. and coalition forces since the Taliban abandoned their last stronghold of Kandahar in December.

Posters and handbills calling for jihad, or holy war, against the U.S.-led coalition have appeared intermittently since the collapse of the Taliban last year. What makes these unusual is that they were written in the Pakistani language Urdu.

That indicates al Qaeda may be stepping up recruiting in neighboring Pakistan, in the tribal belt along the border to which the U.S. military says most senior leaders have escaped and where the Taliban are seeking to regroup.

The fresh call for recruits coincides with a decision by Pakistan to redeploy troops to its tense eastern border with neighbor India, where the world worries about an all-out nuclear war over the disputed territory of Kashmir.

The posters, seen on both sides of the border, call bin Laden the "lion of Islam." Other handbills feature a picture of the elusive terror mastermind. On the other side is a drawing of Mullah Omar with one eye blackened. Mullah Omar lost his eye during Afghanistan's 1980s war against the invading Soviet Union.

Also in the drawing is the black and white flag of Pakistan's right-wing Jamiat-e-Ulema Islam party, a vocal critic of Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf and ideologically akin to the Taliban.

Followers of Pakistan's JUI have spearheaded attacks on theaters and music shops in the tribal regions, charging they violated Islam, a belief propagated by the Taliban.

On sunbaked mud walls that encase sprawling compounds of tribesmen who live on the border with Afghanistan, JUI black and white flags have been painted and graffiti scrawled in Urdu urging support for the Taliban, threatening death to the United States.

The graffiti called "Osama bin Laden: Hero of Islam" and said the "Taliban and al Qaeda are symbols of Jihad." It also called Omar a "warrior for Islam."

Since the collapse of the Taliban, pamphlets, known as "shabnamas" or "night letters," have circulated usually clandestinely — always in the Afghan languages Pashto and Dari. Some have urged jihad against the United States and Afghans supporting the U.S.-led coalition.

Others have offered bounties for coalition soldiers — $50,000 if one is captured alive, $30,000 if one is killed.