July 18 (Reuters) – NATO said on Sunday it had intercepted a letter from the reclusive leader of the Afghan Taliban in which he calls on his fighters to capture and kill any Afghan working for foreign forces.
If genuine, the letter marks a turnaround from a directive issued by Mullah Omar a year ago when he urged fighters to avoid harming civilians even if they had been captured. Reuters could not immediately verify the letter’s authenticity.
The appeal, which NATO said was picked up in early June, also instructs Taliban field commanders to recruit anyone with access to foreign military bases in order to obtain information on international troops, said NATO’s spokesman in Afghanistan.
“The message was from Mullah Omar, who’s hiding in Pakistan, to his subordinate commanders in Afghanistan,” Brigadier General Josef Blotz told a news conference in the Afghan capital.
The letter, which contains five specific orders, also calls on Taliban commanders to fight foreign troops to the death and capture them whenever possible as well as instructing fighters to obtain more heavy weapons. <^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^^
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One order in the letter specifically calls on fighters to capture and kill Afghan women who are “helping or providing information to coalition forces”.
Blotz said he was “100 percent sure” the letter was from the Taliban leader, although he could not reveal how it had been verified in order to protect NATO’s sources.
The Taliban could not be immediately reached for comment.
Violence is at its worst in Afghanistan since U.S.-backed Afghan forces overthrew the Taliban in late 2001 for refusing to give up al Qaeda members following the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
Omar, seen as the founder of the Taliban movement that emerged during the civil war of the early 1990s, has not been seen in public for years. He is believed to be in Pakistan.
While other leaders are believed to be more involved in the day-to-day command of the insurgency in Afghanistan, Omar is still considered the spiritual head of the hardline movement. (Reporting by Jonathon Burch; Editing by Maria Golovnina) (firstname.lastname@example.org; +93 794 354 074; Reuters Messaging: email@example.com)) (If you have a query or comment on this story, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org)