Leader of Taliban warns foreigners

Omar letter predicts `thumping defeat' of international forces in Afghanistan

December 30, 2006|By Kim Barker | Kim Barker,CHICAGO TRIBUNE

KABUL, Afghanistan -- Mullah Mohammed Omar, the reclusive leader of the Taliban, said in a letter yesterday that international troops face a "thumping defeat" in Afghanistan.

The authenticity of the letter, which also congratulated Muslims on the religious holiday of Eid al-Adha, "the festival of the sacrifice," could not be independently verified.

Mohammed Hanif, a purported spokesman for the Taliban, sent a scanned copy by electronic mail yesterday to news media. The letter was written in the Pashto language on Taliban letterhead and signed by Omar and Hanif, with an incomplete English translation.

"The reality that exists in Afghanistan is clear to everybody," the letter said. "On one side the occupiers, the persecutors, have so much power and modern technology and equipment, and on the other side, we have our helpless Afghans, using ordinary means. But despite this, they have been driving these superpowers crazy. And the superpowers are looking for an escape route."

This has been a violent year in Afghanistan, the worst since the Taliban regime fled more than five years ago and launched an insurgency against the U.S.-backed Afghan government.

Almost 4,000 people have died in violence in Afghanistan in 2006, most of them Taliban fighters. But an increasing number of civilian deaths in NATO bombings and shootings have caused some Afghans in the south to turn against international troops.

In his letter, Omar said the Taliban should stand with such Afghan victims and take revenge on NATO troops.

Omar's letter comes at a key time, when the Taliban are preparing for their annual spring offensive while reeling from the death of a key commander.

Mullah Akhtar Mohammad Osmani, who was supposed to be Omar's successor, was killed in a U.S. military airstrike Dec. 19. Although Taliban officials initially denied that Osmani died, this week they acknowledged it.

In the letter, Omar did not mention Osmani's death. Hanif had said Thursday that a message from Omar would be sent the next day.

Omar's whereabouts are not known. Afghan officials say he is hiding in Quetta, Pakistan, while Pakistani officials say he is in Afghanistan.

Officials hope a tribal meeting, called a jirga, between tribal leaders on both sides of the porous Afghanistan-Pakistan border will help quell the violence. Although initially some hoped moderate Taliban forces would join the meeting, Omar said in his letter no real Muslim would participate.

"The ones who will take part in this jirga are the people who have been sold to foreigners, and they will not represent any tribe in the region," Omar wrote. "I am asking all the Muslims in the region to be aware of the invaders and their satanic plans."

Omar ended the letter by stressing that Afghans had driven out any other foreign troops that tried to enter Afghanistan:

"Our invader enemy has not been invited to come here, and they will not leave without force either. They have used force to come here, and we will use force to drive them away. That's what we Afghans have done to our enemies. We have forced all of them to leave Afghanistan."

Kim Barker writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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