Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect in the 11 September terrorist attacks on the United States, has declared a holy war on the US. In a taped interview he warned that the United States would not know peace until it withdraws its troops from the Arabian peninsula and Palestine also enjoys peace. It is not known when the interview was recorded.

Defiantly praising the terrorist attacks on New York and Washington in his first direct reference to the attacks bin Laden said that a "vanguard group of Muslims" was behind the attacks on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon. However, he did not claim responsibility for the atrocities.

The White House has said that bin Laden's message was a "reminder" of the need to combat global terrorism.

Meanwhile, there are reports that fighting has broken out between Afghanistan's ruling Taliban militia and civilians in Zaranj on the western Afghan border. The IRNA news agency is reporting that 150 Afghans decided to capture the town from the Taliban.

Earlier the Taliban condemned US-led attacks against Afghanistan as a "terrorist act". The Taliban said that it would not deliver the terrorist suspect Osama bin Laden to the United States.

The Afghan Islamic Press quoted the Taliban Ambassador to Pakistan as saying the military action was a terrorist attack. Abdul Salam Zaeef, speaking in Islamabad, said several Afghan cities had come under heavy air and missile attack.

"We cannot hand over Osama to the United States," Mr Zaeef said. "This is an attack on an independent country. We will fight until our last breath. America will be responsible for the killing of poor people".

The military retaliation followed the Taliban's refusal to hand over Osama bin Laden, the main suspect behind the September 11 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.

Before tonight's military attacks, Pakistan made their first clear move against pro-Taliban Islamic groups by putting a prominent radical leader under house arrest.

The order confining Maulana Fazlur Rehman to his home near the Afghan border was issued hours before he was due to address an anti-American protest.

Mr Rehman is the first prominent pro-Taliban supporter to be detained in Pakistan. His party has been involved in almost daily protests against threatened American military strikes on Afghanistan.

Iran's foreign ministry has described the strikes against Afghanistan as "unacceptable". The IRNA news agency is reporting that the ministry condemned the "vast US attacks".

Iraqi President Saddam Hussein has also condemned the attacks as US-led "aggression" against Afghanistan. State television is reporting his comments that the attacks fell outside international law.

A statement read: "The true believers cannot but condemn this act, not because it has been committed by America against a Muslim people but because it is an aggression perpetrated outside international law".