'Taliban' message attacks aid workers

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The Independent Online

A message attributed to Mullah Mohammed Omar, the Taliban's reclusive leader, has attacked Western charities as the "greatest enemies of Islam".

The two-page message, written in Pashtu, was received by the Associated Press agency yesterday. It said: "Oh Muslims, know the enemies of your religion - the Jews and Christians. America, Britain, the UN and all Western aid groups are the greatest enemies of Islam and humanity."

The authenticity of the message, which carried Mullah Omar's signature, could not be independently verified. But it comes after a series of attacks on Western aid workers.

In the southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan, international aid has dwindled because aid organisations have banned travel on most roads, fearing attacks by rebel fighters. In the southern city of Kandahar, a former Taliban stronghold, the presence of international workers was reduced this year after a member of the International Committee of the Red Cross was killed.

UN mine clearers have been attacked on several occasions. Last weekend, the UN suspended road travel for its workers in southern Afghanistan after five policemen were wounded and Afghan aid workers were tied up and beaten.

While responsibility is rarely claimed for attacks, the Afghan authorities routinely blame remnants of the deposed Taliban regime.