Last Updated: Mon May 07, 2012 14:13 pm (KSA) 11:13 am (GMT)

Afghan government slams Taliban spring offensive

A Taliban offensive has come every year in Afghanistan. (Reuters)
A Taliban offensive has come every year in Afghanistan. (Reuters)

The Afghan government on Monday slammed the recent Taliban announcement of the start of their annual “spring offensive,” calling it cowardly and un-Islamic and saying the country’s forces would thwart any attacks.

The offensive comes every year as snows melt and the weather warms across Afghanistan, making both travel and fighting easier. It normally leads to a surge of militant attacks throughout the country as the Taliban attempt to retake lost territory and intimidate the government.

In their announcement last week, the Taliban said they would target anyone - from government workers to tribal leaders - who works against them and helps foreigners in their “occupation” of Afghanistan. They said this year’s offensive would be code-named “Al-Farouk” after the second Muslim Caliph who lived in the seventh century.

On Monday, the Ministry of Interior issued a statement saying that “while again declaring war against the Afghan people, their government and constitution, the Taliban insurgents also abuse their religious values in the name of a cause opposed to the basic Islamic principles of peace, education and kindness.”

It said that insurgents use propaganda and “twist holy religious values to justify their criminal activities and in the process have killed thousands of innocent people.”

Last year was the deadliest on record for civilians in the Afghan war, with 3,021 killed, according to the United Nations. Taliban-affiliated militants were responsible for more than three-quarters of those deaths.

The Taliban have launched several large-scale attacks in recent weeks, including coordinated attacks on Kabul and three other cities that left 11 people and 36 insurgents dead, and a strike on a compound used by foreigners in the Afghan capital that killed seven.

The uptick in violence comes as NATO gears up to hand over security to local forces ahead of a 2014 deadline for the withdrawal of foreign combat troops. Some have questioned if local forces will be up to the task.

Late Sunday, four gunmen took over a tall building in the eastern province of Paktika and started shooting down into surrounding government compounds, wounding one civilian.

A spokesman for the governor, Mokhlis Afghan, said police quickly surrounded the building in the provincial capital and killed the attackers after several hours. NATO and Afghan army troops provided support.

The spokesman said casualties were low because police acted quickly, the streets were clear and nearby buildings were mostly empty because most people had gone home for the night.

Also Monday, the governor of southern Helmand province condemned a NATO airstrike last week that he said killed six civilians - a woman, three girls and two boys. Gulab Mangal said Friday’s airstrike was aimed at insurgents attacking NATO and Afghan forces in the province’s Sangin district.

He said “a civilian house was also targeted by the airstrike unintentionally.” Mangal said he asked the commander of U.S.-led coalition forces in the region to “prevent such events in the future.”

In the north, a large roadside bomb killed three people Monday in Kunduz province’s Imam Sahib district - including a high-ranking national border police commander, said Amanullah Qurishi, the district chief. The blast was so powerful it left a crater three meters (yards) deep, he said.

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