Taliban threatens countrywide attacks in Afghanistan

AFP – Taliban insurgents Saturday vowed a new round of attacks against Afghan and foreign troops in the war-torn country, promising to focus more attention on the relatively-peaceful north.

Naming the new drive “Ghazwatul Badr” after the historic battle fought by the Prophet Mohammed some 1,400 years ago, a Taliban spokesman said the operation would target the country’s northern and southern parts.

The call came as Taliban holding two French aid workers hostage in southern Afghanistan early Saturday called for the withdrawal of French NATO troops and the freeing of imprisoned militants in exchange for their release, in a statement on their website.

Northern Afghanistan has remained mostly peaceful compared to south and southeast which have seen much of the violence plaguing the country since the ouster of the hardline regime in late 2001.

“Soon we will launch a new operation, Ghazawatul Badr, from the north to the south,” rebel spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi told AFP from an unknown location.

Ahmadi claimed they will send “fresh troops in massive numbers” to the north of the country as part of what he called a Taliban countrywide operation.

Taliban have often made inflated claims in the past. Ghazawatul Badr relates to a crucial victory in the 7th Century by Islamic forces at Badr, in what is now Saudi Arabia.

An Afghan defence ministry spokesman dismissed the threat.

“This is nothing more than a propaganda scheme,” ministry spokesman general Mohammad Zahir Azimi told AFP.

The insurgency, which scaled down late autumn and winter due to freezing weather, has increased with the spring. More than 4,000 people mostly militants were killed in 2006.

Nearly 40 foreign troops have died in Afghanistan since January.

As part of their campaign the Taliban have made wide-use of roadside bombs, said to be a tactic copied from insurgents fighting the US-led coalition force in Iraq.

Taliban have held control of at least one district in the troubled southern Helmand province for several months.

They have also increased the Iraqi style abduction of mostly foreign nationals to pressure foreign forces to leave Afghanistan, to secure release of Taliban prisoners or to try and extract ransoms.

There are more than 35,000 NATO led troops fighting the Taliban insurgency alongside the Afghan army and police.

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