Suicide squads set to target US bases

By Rory Carroll in Islamabad

Taliban leaders have sanctioned suicide squads to seek and destroy United States and Northern Alliance targets in a significant escalation of their resistance to ground assaults.

Teams of militants have allegedly been granted permission to strap explosives to their bodies and vehicles to launch potentially devastating attacks against enemy forces, despite unease over Islam's disapproval of suicide, it was claimed on Wednesday.

A determination to inflict maximum casualties against US troops and their Northern Alliance proxies has apparently convinced the Taliban to approve a tactic that has bloodied Indian security forces in Kashmir.

Muslim militants waging an insurgency in the disputed Himalayan territory have bombed Indian military bases, checkpoints and patrols in a series of spectacular raids that claimed dozens of lives. Fighters willing to make the ultimate sacrifice are known as fidayeen.

The Islamic groups trained for suicide attacks in Afghanistan under the sponsorship of the Taliban and Osama bin Laden's al-Qaeda network, which see the fight against the US as a holy war.

According to refugees, Arab and Pakistani hardliners have in recent weeks taken an increasingly dominant role in organising Taliban resistance, elbowing aside those Afghans deemed too moderate. Jaish-e-Mohammed, a fundamentalist Pakistani group suspected of last month's car bomb that killed at least 38 people outside a state assembly building in Kashmir, said its militants had infiltrated Afghanistan and would use identical methods.

"They work against India and they will work against the Americans," said Mohammad Gul, who trains volunteers. "We have redirected our members from Kashmir to Afghanistan."

Sardar Ahmedia, a spokesman for the Northern Alliance in New Delhi, claimed the Taliban's supreme leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, mobilised fidayeen at a meeting in the southern city of Kandahar last week. After being drilled in commando tactics the squads would be slipped across the border to target US bases and supply depots in neighbouring countries such as Tajikistan, he said.

Trucks, tanks and other vehicles loaded with explosives could also be driven at opposition forces trying to retake the northern city of Mazar-e-Sharif, he told Defence Week magazine.

A Taliban defector said two pilots willing to fly kamikaze missions could do so in aging SU fighter bombers that have been hidden and survived the US onslaught. The Frontier Post, a Pakistani newspaper, quoted a Taliban source in Kabul saying death squads, with Russian-made AK-83 sub-machine guns and wearing olive-green chest bands inscribed with verses from the Koran, were operating in several areas.

The Guardian