Taliban leader boasts Kabul forced to bargain with insurgency

Other News Materials 12 October 2007 06:31

( AFP ) - Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar said on Thursday the Afghan government had been forced to negotiate with his insurgency, as the group called the release this week of five Taliban prisoners a "great victory," according to a US-based monitoring service.

Addressing Muslims as they mark the end of the fasting month of Ramadan, Omar said in an online statement that Afghans were suffering at the hands of "invaders" but that resistance had led the US-backed government to negotiate with the Taliban, the SITE monitoring service said.

"It is the effect of Afghans' jehad (sic) and resistance, who obliged the invaders and coalition to negotiate with Emarate Islami (the Taliban)," said the group's statement in flawed English, relayed by the monitoring service.

Omar said the Taliban's fight against NATO-led forces and the Kabul government had reached a "success point and forced the invaders and their allies to admit that invasion over Afghan homeland was a historical error."

Omar's statement came after German engineer Rudolf Blechschmidt and four other Afghan hostages were freed by Taliban kidnappers in exchange for the release of five Taliban prisoners held by the Kabul government. Blechschmidt returned home Thursday after being held for three months.

In another Taliban statement, the group said the swap was a triumph as it said the Kabul government had ruled out making concessions to the Taliban.

"This exchange was a great victory," the Taliban said, because the Kabul government had said it "will never deal whit (sic) mujahideen (Taliban)."

The Taliban said it had set two conditions for the release of the German engineer: the withdrawal of German troops from Afghanistan and an exchange for Taliban fighters held by the Kabul government.

It said the Afghan government met the second condition.

The Taliban statements also come after Afghan President Hamid Karzai last month made a direct offer of peace talks with Omar and radical warlord Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, saying he would give them government posts if they gave up violence.

The Taliban and Hekmatyar have both rejected talks as long as there are international troops in Afghanistan. Karzai has refused demands that the troops leave before negotiations can take place.

The Taliban, removed from power in a US-led invasion six years ago, are the main group behind an increasingly bloody insurgency that is trying to topple the US-backed government in Kabul and force out tens of thousands of foreign troops supporting Karzai's administration.

Karzai's government came under international criticism in March over a similar exchange of Taliban prisoners for an Italian hostage.