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Mullah Omar names deputy military chief

Spin Boldak (Afghanistan), July 26 (Reuters): Fugitive Taliban leader Mullah Omar approved a new deputy military commander for southern Afghanistan today and ordered him to intensify guerrilla attacks on US and government forces, a Taliban official said.

Today’s announcement follows stepped-up activity by suspected Taliban guerrillas in southern Afghanistan which saw nine soldiers of the 11,500-strong US-led coalition in Afghanistan wounded in several attacks last weekend.

Omar spoke to Mullah Sabir, alias Momin, by radio today after his appointment by a Taliban leadership council and tribal elders, said Mullah Abdul Samad, an intelligence officer in the hardline Taliban regime ousted in 2001.

“He (Omar) directed him to intensify jihad against the forces of the US and the Afghan government,” Samad said, speaking by satellite phone from an undisclosed location.

Samad said Momin would assist the Taliban military commander for southern Afghanistan, Hafiz Abdur Rahim.

Samad said Taliban officials and tribal elders met for three days in southern Afghanistan to devise a strategy to step up attacks on foreign and Afghan forces. He said the meeting concluded today but did not give further details.

The whereabouts of the shadowy Omar and al Qaida leader Osama bin Laden, who is blamed for masterminding the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US, remain unknown more than 18 months since the start of US-led operations in Afghanistan.

In June, the Taliban announced the formation of a 10-man leadership council to organise resistance against foreign troops. US-backed President Hamid Karzai dismissed the move, saying the Taliban had been defeated and could not threaten the central government.

The US military said coalition forces killed up to 24 suspected Taliban fighters last Saturday after a coalition convoy came under guerrilla attack near the town of Spin Boldak on the border with Pakistan.

Pakistan today denied that remnants of the Taliban were regrouping on its territory following stepped up attacks by the hardline Islamists in neighbouring Afghanistan.

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