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By mid-April 1992 Najibullah was ousted as Islamic rebels advanced on the capital. Almost immediately, the various rebel groups began fighting one another for control. Amid the chaos of competing factions, a group calling itself the Taliban—consisting of Islamic students—seized control of Kabul in Sept. 1996.

It imposed harsh fundamentalist laws, including stoning for adultery and severing hands for theft. Women were prohibited from work and school, and they were required to cover themselves from head to foot in public. By fall 1998 the Taliban controlled about 90% of the country and, with its scorched-earth tactics and human rights abuses, had turned itself into an international pariah.



Only three countries—Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, and the UAR—recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan's legitimate government.

On Aug. 20, 1998, U.S. cruise missiles struck a terrorist training complex in Afghanistan believed to have been financed by Osama bin Laden, a wealthy Islamic radical sheltered by the Taliban. The U.S. asked for the deportation of Bin Laden, whom it believed was involved in the bombing of the U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania on Aug. 7, 1998.

The UN also demanded the Taliban hand over Bin Laden for trial.
In Sept. 2001, legendary guerrilla leader Ahmed Shah Masoud was killed by suicide bombers, a seeming death knell for the anti-Taliban forces, a loosely connected group referred to as the Northern Alliance.

Days later, terrorists attacked New York's World Trade Center towers and the Pentagon, and Bin Laden emerged as the primary suspect in the tragedy.
 

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