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Afghan Taliban Leader Warns Of New Offensive

Taliban fighters pose at a mosque in Afghanistan's Ghazni Province on April 28.
KABUL (Reuters) -- A senior leader of Afghanistan's Taliban has warned the movement will launch a new large-scale operation against the Afghan government, diplomatic missions, foreign troops, and anyone supporting them.

Despite the increasing number of Western forces, the Taliban, ousted in a U.S.-led invasion in 2001, have made a comeback in recent years and carried out a series of stunning attacks in several major cities, including Kabul.

Posted on a Taliban website, a message quoting the deputy leader of the movement, Mullah Brother Akhund, said the "victory" will begin on April 30 and include ambushes, bombs, and suicide bomb attacks.

"The targets of these operations will be the military units of the invading forces, diplomatic centers, mobile convoys, high-ranking officials of the puppet administration, members of parliament and personnel of the so-called defense, interior and national security ministries," the message said.

Through the offensive, the Taliban will seek to further tighten the encirclement of the enemy in the provinces and attack their supply routes, it added.

The message urged Afghan security forces to desert and join the militants and ordered private firms as well as individuals to stop working for the foreign troops.

U.S.-led troops overthrew the Taliban government after it refused to hand over Al-Qaeda leaders wanted by Washington for the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The Taliban have made advances in recent years not only in Afghanistan but also in neighboring Pakistan, where they have some bases in the lawless tribal border region.

To fight the growing insurgency, the new administration in Washington has pledged to send an extra 21,000 troops this year to Afghanistan, where the level of foreign forces stand at more than 70,000.

The additional U.S. troops will be deployed mainly to the southeast of the country.

The Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders are still at large and thought to be in hiding in the tribal region on the Afghan-Pakistan border near to Pakistan's lawless northern tribal areas.