KABUL (Reuters) - The Afghan Taliban will not take part in next year’s presidential elections and will wage war until foreign troops leave the country, the group’s elusive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, said in a message released on Tuesday.
The announcement is likely to frustrate the international community, which had been hoping the resumption of stalled peace talks in the Gulf state of Qatar may lead to the Islamist group’s participation in the April elections.
“As to the deceiving drama under the name of elections 2014, our pious people will not tire themselves out, nor will they participate,” an English translation of Omar’s message, provided by Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, said.
The Taliban rejected two previous presidential elections but this was the first time they have publicly boycotted the 2014 poll.
For several years, a message from Omar has been delivered to the Afghan people in the days before Eid al-Fitr, a three-day Islamic holiday celebrating the end of the holy month of Ramadan, a period marked by prayer and fasting.
While it is commonly believed that Omar lives in Pakistan, he has made no public appearances or speeches since fleeing Afghanistan in 2001 when U.S. forces and their Afghan allies toppled the Taliban after the September 11 attacks on the United States.
The Taliban, who ruled Afghanistan with an iron fist from 1996 to 2001, are seeking to overthrow the U.S.-backed government and end foreign occupation.
Omar said the aim of the Taliban’s office in Doha, the capital of Qatar, was to see foreign forces leave the country and to form an inclusive government based on “Islamic principles”.
Most foreign troops are due to leave the country by the end of next year.
“We do not think of monopolizing power,” he said. “Those who truly love Islam and the country and have commitment to both, whoever they maybe or whichever ethnicity or geographical location they hail from, this homeland is theirs,” he said.
Omar also said humanitarian organizations should feel free to carry out their work in Afghanistan as long as they were not “inviting people to non-Islamic ways”.
That message may be a response to the suicide attack on the International Committee of the Red Cross’s (ICRC) compound in Jalalabad in May, which killed an unarmed guard and led to the organization curtailing operations in Afghanistan.
The attack was widely blamed on the Taliban. But intelligence gathered by the NATO-led force in Afghanistan suggested the Taliban fighters who launched the attack were acting without the permission of their commanders, a NATO source told Reuters.
The message came on the same day as a police officer was killed in the eastern city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province by a bomb attached to a police vehicle. The bomb killed the police driver and wounded an officer, Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said.
Nangarhar has endured a wave of violence which began on Friday with a battle between Taliban fighters and police.
Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi; Editing by Nick Macfie