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Afghan Taliban says leader's voice on tape
( 2003-11-14 09:14) (Reuters)

A recorded voice purportedly of Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar admonished guerrillas who have abandoned a "Jihad" against foreign troops and urged renewed resistance, two years after American invaders drove him from power.

"I sacrificed my rule and all I had and if I can stand for my honor, why can't you? If you can't stand for your honor, it means your faith is weak," the voice said. "Why can't you be ready for sacrifice? I have sacrificed everything."

The audio tape was handed to Reuters in the southern Afghan town of Spin Boldak by unidentified men on a motorbike. Mullah Abdul Sama, a spokesman for the hardline Islamist militia, said it was made in the last few weeks.

If authentic, it would be the most recent evidence that the elusive supreme leader, one of America's most wanted men, is alive despite a two-year manhunt across Afghanistan's mountains and deserts involving 11,500 soldiers, helicopters and jets.

The voice, which sounded similar to Omar's, admonishes commanders who have given up the jihad.

"I am talking about faith and Islam among the commanders, about those who are not participating in the jihad," the speaker said.

The Taliban provided support for the al Qaeda guerrilla network and its leader Osama bin Laden, blamed by Washington for September 11, 2001 attacks on U.S. cities.

According to Sama, the five- to six-minute speech was addressed to a 10-member council the Taliban says was set up in late June to better coordinate anti-U.S. attacks.

More than 350 people have been killed in a wave of bloodshed in Afghanistan since early August, much of it linked to the Taliban. Other militant forces are also believed to be active, including al Qaeda and Hekmatyar loyalists.

"Since this council was set up, the Taliban jihad has much improved," Taliban official Mullah Abdul Rauf told Reuters from an undisclosed location.

Also on Thursday, local witnesses blamed the ousted militia or its allies for killing four Afghans and injuring three in a remote-controlled bomb blast in Kunar.

They said the attack appeared to be intended for a vehicle from U.S.-led forces in the northeastern province which had passed the same point on the road a little earlier.

The tape and Kunar attack are further signs of the Taliban's ability to regroup and wage a "jihad" (holy war) on foreign troops, the government and aid organizations in Afghanistan.

They are also a stark reminder that the self-styled U.S. "war on terror" in Afghanistan is far from over at a time when forces are struggling to contain armed resistance in post-war Iraq.


Another Taliban spokesman, Hamid Agha, said Omar was still in charge and that the movement had three committees; one political involved in recruitment, one economic collecting funds, and one military carrying out attacks and training guerrillas.

In other recent Taliban-linked violence, the militia claimed it killed at least one Romanian soldier this week in the south of the country, and officials in the southern Zabul province said a security vacuum allowed the Taliban to operate freely at night.

A Turkish engineer is still in Taliban captivity, the U.S. embassy in Kabul has warned American journalists they could be kidnapped, aid workers have been killed and NGOs say that attacks in the south and east threaten to undermine stability.

Agha said the Turkish engineer, Hassan Onal, was "alive and in safe hands" but did not elaborate.

Despite the violence in recent months, resentment among Afghans over the presence of U.S. forces nowhere near matches that in Iraq, nor do the Taliban have the military muscle yet to engage in more than hit-and-run attacks.

Between 30 and 40 U.S. soldiers have been killed in action in Afghanistan, far fewer than in Iraq.

But analysts warn that if reconstruction projects continue to be disrupted and people do not see better security soon, indifference, and even sympathy for militants could grow.

"The fact that few of the root causes of the Taliban movement have been dealt with must give cause for concern that the threat could develop into something far more dangerous in the near- to mid-term," said Jason Burke, author of "Al Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of Terror."

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