KABUL, Afghanistan Taliban commanders have held a meeting with their supreme leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, to plan their armed campaign against U.S. forces, a purported spokesman said.
The spokesman, who said his name was Sayed Hamid Agha, telephoned Associated Press reporters in Afghanistan and Pakistan on Sunday and read out a statement.
"Over the last few days we established a shura (council) under the leadership of Mullah Omar," Agha said. "The shura appointed four committees military, political, cultural and economic to regulate all relevant matters."
One of the two AP reporters recognized the man's voice and knew him to be a Taliban militant. He also received a written copy of the same statement from a second man with suspected Taliban ties in the western Pakistani city of Peshawar.
A spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Roy Glover, said the Taliban statement "obviously would be of some interest to us," but declined to comment further.
Amrullah Saleh, a senior Afghan intelligence chief, said similar statements have been circulated regularly, but that it was new for them to detail meetings of Taliban leaders.
"I think it's part of their psychological operations to send a message to the people that they have some operations," he told the Associated Press in Kabul.
Reading a statement in the name of former Taliban Information Minister Qudratullah Jamal, Agha also claimed a string of military victories.
He said he was calling from outside Afghanistan, but gave no indication of Omar's whereabouts and refused to answer questions.
The U.S.-led coalition lists the one-eyed Omar as one of its top most wanted men, along with terrorist mastermind Osama bin Laden and his al-Qaida lieutenants. Omar is believed to be hiding in the mountains of Afghanistan and perhaps traveling in the tribal regions of Pakistan, where ultraconservative Islamists currently rule.
In August, the AP received a copy of a message purportedly from Omar warning of attacks against "all Western aid groups," and calling them the "greatest enemies of Islam and humanity."
The authenticity of that message, which carried Omar's signature, could not be independently verified.
There has been a resurgence in Taliban activity recently. The militants have been flexing their muscles in the country's south and east, launching increasingly violent attacks against coalition forces, government officials and aid workers.
Agha said that a Taliban commander called Sardar Agha took control in recent days of Dai Chupan and Atghar districts in the province of Zabul, another area that has seen heavy fighting between coalition and Afghan forces and hundreds of Taliban fighters.
"There is no state administration there," Agha said. He also claimed that the Taliban had killed 10 U.S. soldiers recently.
In an e-mail from Bagram Air Base, the U.S. military headquarters in Afghanistan, spokesman Col. Rodney Davis said that U.S.-led coalition forces lost only three soldiers last month, one in an accidental fall during an operation and two in a firefight with suspected Taliban near Shkin in Paktika province, just a few miles from Barmal.
Davis said he had no information that the Taliban had managed to capture the districts. But Saleh was skeptical about the claim.
"As far as I know, there is no territory in Afghanistan where the Taliban have a declared existence," he said.
Agha said the Taliban would fight relentlessly to evict American troops and topple the government of President Hamid Karzai.
Karzai left Sunday to visit the United States, Canada and Britain to appeal for continued international assistance.
"We promise to the Afghan nation that the holy war will continue until the foreigners leave the country until Islamic law, peace and security are reintroduced throughout the country," Agha said.
Copyright © 2002 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.
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