Image: Afghan election workers count ballots.
Emilio Morenatti  /  AP
Election workers sort ballot papers at a counting center in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday.
updated 10/20/2004 6:47:46 AM ET 2004-10-20T10:47:46

Fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar is facing “serious disagreements” with his commanders because of the rebel group’s failure to disrupt Afghanistan’s landmark presidential election this month, the U.S. military said Wednesday.

Spokesman Maj. Scott Nelson said the information was based on intelligence reports from Afghanistan and neighboring Pakistan, but conceded that he did not know where the leader of the hardline Islamic militia was hiding.

U.S.: 'Serious disagreements'
Nelson claimed that there was “significant demoralization” among the Taliban and frustration over Omar’s “lack of effectiveness” after Afghanistan’s first democratic vote on Oct. 9 passed off largely peacefully.

“There’s been serious disagreements between Mullah Omar and some of his lower commanders on the strategy for the follow-up after the election,” Nelson told a news conference in the Afghan capital.

Torn by conflict

Omar has been at large since the ouster of the Taliban regime by U.S.-led forces in late 2001. Pressed on whether the rebel leader was in Afghanistan or Pakistan, Nelson said, “I don’t know exactly where he’s located at.”

But he said, “We still see indications the man (Omar) is involved in planning Taliban operations in Afghanistan as well as Pakistan.”

The U.S. military, which has 18,000 forces hunting al-Qaida and Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, claimed in August there was a fissure developing in the Taliban movement and that it was starting to collapse.

That hasn’t been independently confirmed. At the time, a purported Taliban spokesman said the breakaway faction was called Jaish-e-Muslimeen, or Muslim Army, and was an insignificant group numbering 10-15 people.

Nelson praised Pakistan, saying it had deployed forces to its southwestern Baluchistan province which had helped secure border regions and prevent movement of Taliban fighters in the frontier area of southern Afghanistan.

Pakistan was a key backer of the Taliban before it threw its support behind the U.S.-led war on terror after the Sept. 11 attacks. It has moved aggressively against al-Qaida-linked militants along the Afghan border and strongly denies that it offers sanctuary to Taliban rebels.

U.S. says attacks thwarted
Nelson said that in the 48 hours before the Oct. 9 polling day, coalition and Afghan forces thwarted planned attacks on the polls and had arrested 22 suspects, including Taliban commanders and sub-commanders. It had also killed 22 militants.

Slideshow: Historic vote

“We need to exploit that success against the Taliban,” Nelson said. “We will continue to be aggressive and see if we can drive that final death nail into their coffin.”

Nearly 1,000 people, many of them militants, have died in violence this year, among them five killed in a bomb attack Monday on an election worker’s vehicle in southeastern Paktika province. A Taliban suspect has been arrested for the attack.

Lt. Col. Patrick Poulain, spokesman for the NATO-led peacekeepers who patrol Kabul, said that a 16-year old Afghan girl had died from burn injuries sustained in a rocket attack against the capital at the weekend.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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