Taleban denies reports of peace talks with UN and vows to maintain jihad
THE Taleban have denied reports that their representatives met with a UN official to discuss prospects for peace in Afghanistan, calling them "futile and baseless" rumours.
The UN in Afghanistan yesterday refused to confirm the meeting between the Taleban and its local chief, Norwegian diplomat Kai Eide. But the US Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, said Eide, who is leaving his post within weeks, wanted to "get his own conclusion about the mindset of some of the Taleban members".
The Taleban said in a statement: "The Leadership Council considers this mere futile and baseless rumours. The Leadership Council once again emphasises continuation of Islamic jihad against all invaders as a means to frustrate these conspiracies."
Last week, Afghan president Hamid Karzai told a conference on Afghanistan in London that he would offer jobs and homes to Taleban fighters willing to renounce violence and would convene a peace jirga – or conference – to bring together Afghan leaders, members of civil society groups and clerics.
US officials have endorsed plans to offer peace to low and mid-level Taleban fighters but remain sceptical about entering into deals with Taleban leaders, who harboured Osama bin Laden.
Yesterday, a suicide attacker targeted a police checkpoint in north-western Pakistan, killing at least seven civilians and two officers, government official Bakhat Pacha said. He said 10 people, mostly passers-by, were also wounded in the attack in Khar, the main town in the Bajur tribal region.
The attack came a day after officials said security forces had killed 44 militants in three days of battles on the town's outskirts.
Meanwhile, suspected US missiles hit a compound and a bunker in Pakistan's tribal region, killing nine militants as part of an unprecedented wave of strikes since a deadly attack in December against the CIA over the border in Afghanistan, intelligence officials said.
Three missiles targeted Taleban militants early yesterday in the Mohammad Khel area of North Waziristan. The intelligence officials said two hit the compound being used by the militants, killing seven of them, while the third killed two more insurgents in the bunker.
Another such strike early this month targeted a meeting of militant commanders in an apparently unsuccessful attempt to kill Pakistani Taleban chief Hakimullah Mehsud.
Mehsud appeared in a video beside the Jordanian man who carried out the 30 December suicide bombing of a remote CIA base in Afghanistan's Khost province that killed seven of the agency's employees.
A Pakistani Taleban spokesman also claimed responsibility, saying it was revenge for the killing of their former chief, Baitullah Mehsud, in a drone strike last year. Analysts suspect that the Haqqani network, an al-Qaeda-linked Afghan Taleban faction based in North Waziristan, also helped carry out the CIA attack, the worst against the spy agency in decades.
Since the bombing, the US has carried out 13 suspected drone strikes in North and South Waziristan.
• Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden is seeking to draw a wider public into his fight against the US in a new message, which focused on global warming instead of his usual talk of holy war.
He blamed the US and other industrialised nations for climate change and said the only way to prevent disaster was to break the US economy, calling on the world to boycott US goods and stop using the dollar.
He said the US was in thrall to major corporations, which "are the true criminals against the global climate" and also to blame for the global economic crisis.
Al-Jazeera aired excerpts of the message and posted a transcript on its website. The tape's authenticity could not be independently confirmed.
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