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Afghan clerics recommend bin Laden leave

French President Jacques Chirac:
French President Jacques Chirac: "Today, it's New York that was tragically struck, but tomorrow it may be Paris, London, Berlin."  

(CNN) -- Islamic clerics meeting in Kabul, Afghanistan, have recommended to the ruling Taliban leadership that they ask accused terrorist Osama bin Laden to leave the country voluntarily.

The members of Afghanistan's Grand Islamic Council rejected a U.S. demand, delivered by Pakistan, that bin Laden be handed over to stand trial for the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York and Washington. (Statement)

But they warned the United States that if it attacks, the Taliban would declare a jihad, or holy war against the United States.

The clerics said bin Laden should be asked to leave within a suitable time frame for the good of the country. But they did not suggest what would constitute a suitable time frame.

In addition, the clerics expressed grief over the attacks, and asked the United States to be patient and continue with its investigation. The statement also asked the Islamic Conference to investigate the terror attacks.

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  • Afghanistan
  • Pakistan

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Dozens of military planes will be "forward deployed" as early as today in support of the president's objectives, sources said. A second deployment order, not yet issued, could put the number of aircraft involved to more than 100 planes. (Full story)

The announcement came as President Bush prepared to address Congress tonight about the terrorist attacks on the United States. Pentagon sources told CNN Wednesday that war planes were being deployed to the Persian Gulf region as part of the initial buildup of forces in America's "new war" against terrorism. (Full story)

Early signs pointed to another selloff on Wall Street on Thursday amid anxiety about pending military action and the precarious state of the nation's economy in the wake of last week's attacks. (Full story)

Latest developments

• The Afghan opposition Northern Alliance said on Thursday that supreme Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar has gone into hiding. The alliance said it learned of this development by intercepting radio transmissions. (Profile)

• In a joint appearance in Paris, French President Jacques Chirac and British Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed solidarity with the U.S. and its people. Chirac had just returned from a meeting with Bush in Washington and a tour of the New York attack site; Blair is expected in Washington on Thursday. (Full story)

• U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and FBI Director Robert Mueller will travel Thursday to Shanksville, Pennsylvania, 80 miles southeast of Pittsburgh, to visit the site of the crash of United Airlines Flight 93. (Chronology)

• The Justice Department reported 115 people were in federal custody and that authorities are searching for more than 190 others they want to question in the investigation of the attacks. (Full story)

• New York is planning a prayer service at Yankee Stadium on Sunday for the families of victims of the World Trade Center attack. (Full story)

• Rescue and recovery efforts continue at New York's World Trade Center and the Pentagon in Washington, although hopes of finding survivors have drastically dwindled. More than 5,500 people are feared dead in the attacks. (Full story)

• Although U.S. stock markets were in negative numbers at the third closing bell since reopening after the terrorist attacks, there was somewhat of a bounce in the final hours of trading Wednesday. The Dow had been down 423 points, but that loss was cut by more than half by the time the market closed. (Full story)

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