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Taliban gaining strength in Afghan: Commander

Written by: Staff
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Chaman (Pakistan), June 4: The Taliban are gaining strength in Afghanistan and are determined to intensify their attacks against foreign and government forces, a Taliban commander said on Sunday.

Violence has surged in Afghanistan in recent weeks to its worst since the 2001 overthrow of the hardline Taliban government but the district commander, Mullah Hayat Khan, said the violence was winning the militants more support.

''Now the people of Afghanistan are giving full cooperation to us,'' Khan told Reuters in the southwestern Pakistani border town of Chaman.

''There is more anger against foreign forces and their brutality against the people,'' he said, referring to recent bombing by US forces that he said had killed many civilians.

''The people of Afghanistan have become fed up with Americans,'' said Khan, who said he was Taliban commander of the Spin Boldak area, in the southern province of Kandahar, opposite Chaman.

''They break into houses, arrest people indiscriminately and torture them. These brutalities have increased anger among the people,'' he said.

''They are providing us shelter. They also lend us their arms and even take part in our jihad (holy war). Even people within the government are cooperating with us.'' He said the Taliban were also grooming suicide attackers and vowed there would be more attacks against foreign forces.

''At least 40 suicide bombers in my group are ready for attacks.

They are all Afghans.'' ''It is now not very difficult to prepare suicide attackers. In the past, al Qaeda used to prepare Taliban for suicide attacks but now we have gained expertise. I myself am able to train people,'' he said.

Pakistani curbs

He said the Taliban had set up training camps in Helmand and Kandahar provinces, including the Spin Boldak area. ''We will continue our jihad until the foreign troops are driven out. We have stepped up attacks and will intensify them.'' Khan was appointed commander in Spin Boldak after the killing of his brother, commander Sabir Momin, in February.

A short young man with black beard, Khan drove in a pickup truck about 500 metres over the border into Chaman to speak to Reuters. He spoke inside the vehicle, then drove back to Afghanistan. He came without guards.

''Pakistan has imposed curbs on mujahideen (holy warriors) because of American pressure. We do come here but covertly. We cannot move freely as we used to,'' he said.

He rejected Afghan government accusations the Taliban were launching attacks form the safety of Pakistan.

''We organise and carry out our operations inside Afghanistan, not in Pakistan. It's just propaganda, but we do get financial help from supporters in Pakistan,'' he said without elaborating.

Wearing a baggy shalwar kameez tunic and a black turban, the 26-year-old said he was not afraid of death.

''It is the path of God. My brother and an uncle laid down their lives on this path and I am also ready to do so.'' ''Jihad against infidels like Jews and Christians is obligatory for all Muslims. We are carrying out this obligation.'' Khan said he had met Taliban fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar before the end of Taliban rule in 2001.

''Since then, he is in only contact with senior commanders and we get instructions through them,'' he said. ''Mullah Omar is in Afghanistan and is providing full guidance.''

Reuters

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