Afghan Taliban urges retaliation over planned Dutch cartoon contest

KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban urged Afghan soldiers on Thursday to attack Dutch troops serving in the NATO-led Resolute Support mission in retaliation for a contest of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad planned by far-right politician Geert Wilders.

The Taliban threat was issued shortly before Wilders announced on Thursday that he was calling off the planned contest because it posed too great a threat of provoking violence against innocents.

In a statement the Taliban’s main spokesman called the contest a blasphemous action and a hostile act by the Netherlands against all Muslims.

Members of the Afghan security forces “if they truly believe themselves to be Muslims or have any covenant toward Islam should turn their weapons on Dutch troops” or help Taliban fighters attack them, the statement said.

Around 100 Dutch troops are serving in the 16,000-strong Resolute Support mission to train and advise Afghan forces, according to the Dutch ministry of defense. About half of the NATO-led force is made up of Americans.

Wilders’ far-right Freedom Party, which has become the second largest in the Netherlands, announced the competition in June, saying it had the right to hold it under freedom of speech laws.

Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte has said that he does not support the planned contest but that he would defend Wilders’ right to hold it.

Images of the Prophet Mohammad are traditionally forbidden in Islam and caricatures are regarded by most Muslims as deeply offensive.

In 2005, a Danish newspaper published cartoons of the Prophet that sparked a wave of protests across the world. Ten years later, Islamist gunmen killed 12 people in an attack on the offices of French satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo, which had published similar caricatures.

Reporting by James Mackenzie; Editing by Peter Graff