US Will Hold Taliban Rulers Accountable For bin Laden Terrorist Attacks

By Bob Melvin | July 7, 2008 | 8:07 PM EDT

( - US officials have told the Taliban rulers of Afghanistan it will hold them responsible for any attacks on Americans by followers of Saudi-born Islamist Osama bin Laden.

The warning came on Monday after law enforcement authorities abroad arrested bin Laden followers in connection with a threat to attack Americans around the end of the year, State Department spokesman James Foley said.

A US official, who asked not to be identified, said a Middle Eastern government had arrested about a dozen of bin Laden's followers. He did not say when.

International wire service reports say that the message to the Taliban was delivered in New York by the US coordinator for counter terrorism, Michael Sheehan, to the Taliban representative there, Abdul Hakeem Mujahid.

"We wanted to make sure they understood that their support in harboring the bin Laden organization was noted here in the United States and any activity ... we would hold them responsible for,'' said White House spokesman Joe Lockhart.

Bin Laden, accused of blowing up the US Embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in August, 1998, is living in Afghanistan under Taliban protection.

After the bombings, the United States used cruise missiles to attack what it said were his bases in Afghanistan. The US repeatedly has demanded the Taliban hand over bin Laden, whom a New York grand jury has indicted for the bombings.

The United Nations imposed sanctions on the Taliban last month because of its refusal to extradite him. These include a ban on flights by the national airline Ariana and a freeze on the foreign assets of the movement.

On Saturday the United States issued a worldwide caution to citizens traveling abroad through the start of the New Year and the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan, citing "credible information that terrorists are planning attacks''.

"Suspects have been arrested in connection with this threat. We believe they are members of Osama bin Laden's terrorist group al-Qaida,'' Foley said. "Other suspects wanted in connection with planned attacks may belong to bin Laden's network or to other terrorist groups,'' he added.

Foley indicated that the United States made the warning worldwide because it did not know where bin Laden's people were planning to strike. "We have an obligation to share with the American public information that we have that will bear on their security, and you can be certain that if we have that kind of information (on places)...we'll share it,'' he said.