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Afghanistan: Spokesman Denies Splits In Taliban, Condemns Kidnapping Of Women

  • Bruce Pannier

http://gdb.rferl.org/DCE574CF-B46B-42D5-B29B-58006B6B328C_w203.jpg --> http://gdb.rferl.org/DCE574CF-B46B-42D5-B29B-58006B6B328C_mw800_mh600.jpg Recent media reports suggest that remnants of Afghanistan's former Taliban regime are riddled with leadership rivalries and internal divisions that were exacerbated by October's relatively peaceful elections in Afghanistan. But in an interview with RFE/RL's Afghan Service, a Taliban spokesman denied reports of any splits in the Islamic movement. Spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi also condemned the recent abduction of three female UN employees and dismissed reports that Taliban backers are targeting all international aid workers in Afghanistan. But Hakimi also warned that the Taliban plans to punish some aid workers who carry out suspicious activities.

Prague, 19 November 2004 (RFE/RL) -- Hakimi phoned RFE/RL's Afghan Service on 17 November to comment on recent events in the country that he says have been wrongly linked to the Taliban.

Western and Pakistani media regularly quote Hakimi as a spokesman for Afghanistan's toppled Islamic movement.

In the interview with RFE/RL, Hakimi denied recent reports of factional splits within the remnants of the Taliban. He referred specifically to Jaysh al-Muslimin (Army of the Muslims), a group that claimed responsibility for the kidnapping in Kabul in late October of three foreign female aid workers.

The group's spokesmen say it splintered from the Taliban after the movement was toppled by a U.S.-led invasion in late 2001. But Hakimi sought to portray the Taliban leadership as intact: "We do not oppose the faction that calls itself Army of the Muslims or any other group that is engaged in a holy jihad as we continue ours [jihad]. No one has hindered their way to jihad, nor is our way to jihad closed. However, those who call themselves a splinter faction of the Taliban, this assertion is entirely wrong and we deny it completely. No one has split off from the Taliban and there is no question about the leadership of the Taliban. Furthermore, in the present circumstances, there is no need for a separate leadership."

Army of the Muslims has threatened to kill the three United Nations employees, who hail from Northern Ireland, Kosovo, and the Philippines. But its demands have changed repeatedly over the last three weeks during sporadic negotiations with Afghan government contacts and religious figures seeking the women's release.
A spokesman said the Taliban is suspicious of some foreign aid organizations. He said the Islamic movement has divided aid groups into categories and that those who have an agenda that reflects something other than purely humanitarian interests would be considered "the enemy."


Army of the Muslims announced shortly after the kidnapping that the three women had been separated and any rescue attempt would result in the execution of the other two women.

Today, a spokesman for Army of the Muslims, Habib Nurzad, said that "negotiations are under way and we are still hopeful they will succeed." The group is now demanding the release of 26 jailed Taliban members in exchange for freeing the workers.

For his part, Hakimi criticized taking women as hostages, saying such practices, even in times of conflict, are against Shari'a, or Islamic, law.

"It is true that in a struggle you impose your demands on the enemy, or there are actions that are useful in fighting the enemy," Hakimi said. "We are not opposed to such actions. However, kidnapping women and holding them hostage, I believe, would not be useful or effective. There is no need for such actions. I believe that kidnapping women is not in accordance with Islamic Shari'a law."

However, Hakimi said the Taliban is suspicious of some foreign aid organizations. He said the Islamic movement has divided aid groups into categories and that those who have an agenda that reflects something other than purely humanitarian interests would be considered "the enemy."

"Those who work for the enemy, we are against them and we will not let them work against our aims and goals," Hakimi said. "Such organizations are working against our honor and principles. They show no respect to our culture, traditions and Islamic way of life. The second group is those who are not suspected. They help people and provide humanitarian aid. We have never done anything to harm them."

Hakim gave no further details and did not identify any particular aid groups.

(The Afghan Service contributed to this report.)
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