Afghan Taliban leader Mullah Omar urged his fighters to avoid civilian casualties amid a rising toll of insurgent killing in a message released on the Taliban’s website Friday.
Omar was also quoted as saying he believed conflicts such as the decade-long Afghan war were resolved by “realisation and understanding,” while again urging the immediate withdrawal of all foreign troops from Afghanistan.
The United States and other nations fighting the war say combat operations will not cease until the end of 2014, and a substantial training and mentoring mission for Afghan forces will remain after that.
“Do not wrongly pester and daunt anyone by the barrel of the gun,” the English language statement in Omar’s name said. “The mujahedeen have to take every step to protect the lives and wealth of ordinary people.”
The statement, issued to mark Eid al-Adha or the Feast of Sacrifice, warned of punishments under Islamic sharia law for fighters responsible for civilian deaths.
The United Nations says the number of civilians killed in the Afghanistan war in the first half of this year rose 15 percent to 1,462, with insurgents behind 80 percent.
The elusive, one-eyed Omar has not been seen in public since 2001. In July, the Taliban accused the US of hacking into their mobile phones to send a text message to journalists claiming he was dead.
He was also quoted in the statement as saying that “the resolution to all conflicts and tribulations resides in realisation and understanding” without giving further details.
Some commentators interpreted a previous message by Omar in August as signalling a shift towards a greater willingness to talk peace.
But any hopes for a negotiated settlement to the bloody war were seriously damaged by September’s murder of President Hamid Karzai’s peace envoy Burhanuddin Rabbani by a supposed Taliban peace envoy.
Karzai said at a regional conference this week in Istanbul that the peace process would not succeed unless top Taliban leaders joined it.
A decade after being toppled, the Taliban continue to wage deadly attacks against international and Afghan forces. Seventeen people including 10 Americans died Saturday when a car bomb hit a military bus in Kabul.