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FILE - In this photograph taken on Nov. 22, 2016, an Afghan child shepherd walks under the changing leaves of trees on the outskirts of Jalalabad.

Afghanistan, Feb 28, 2017: A Taliban leader has issued a statement in four languages calling on Afghans to plant more trees.

The rare public announcement comes amid fears of fresh attacks that usually spike during springtime.


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Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada said Sunday, “the Mujahideen and beloved countrymen must join hands in tree planting” adding trees have an “important role in environmental protection, economic development and beautification of earth.”

The message still cites that the Taliban will continue to be actively engaged “in a struggle against foreign invaders and their hirelings” referring to the Kabul government the Taliban wants to overthrow.

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Afghan government’s reaction

But Afghan government officials dismissed the message and called it a way to “deceive public opinion” and distract others from the group’s “crimes and destruction.”

Shah Hussain Murtazawi, deputy spokesperson for President Ashraf Ghani, said, “Since the establishment of the Taliban movement the only things that these people have in their minds are fighting, crimes and destruction.”

The United Nations reported the highest number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2015 with 11,500 people dead or wounded. More than 3,000 children were among the victims, an increase of 24 percent from the previous year, the U.N. said.

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“They should stop planting IEDs [improvised explosive devices] that are killing so many innocent Afghans including children and women daily,” interior ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.

Wahid Muzhda, a political analyst in Kabul, said messages of “planting trees” or claiming the group is building roads and bridges are usually the way Taliban hopes to show they would bring leadership in areas of the country they control. (VOA)


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