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New NATO chief is Islam's "major enemy": Taliban

Danish Prime Minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen addresses the media during his news conference after the NATO summit in Strasbourg, April 4, 2009. REUTERS/Fabrizio Bensch

KABUL (Reuters) - Afghanistan’s Taliban insurgents say the incoming NATO chief is the “major enemy” of Muslims for defending the publication of cartoons depicting the Prophet Mohammad when prime minister of Denmark.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen, Danish premier until earlier this month, is due in August to become secretary general of NATO, which leads a 56,000-strong international force fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan.

The publication of the cartoons in a Danish newspaper in 2006 led to riots across the Muslim world, including bloody protests in Afghanistan in which several people were killed. Rasmussen had defended the publication of the cartoons on the grounds of free speech and refused to apologize to Muslim countries.

In an article posted on the Taliban's website (, the insurgent group said Rasmussen's appointment would "further strengthen the faith of the Muslims" to fight against NATO and would lead to "intensification of war" in Afghanistan.

“The major enemy of Islam’s Prophet...has become the secretary general of NATO,” said the undated article.

Turkey, NATO’s only mainly Muslim member, dropped its veto to Rasmussen’s appointment this month after U.S. President Barack Obama offered promises that one of Rasmussen’s deputies would be a Turk and Turkish commanders would be present at NATO command.

Turkey had said Rasmussen’s appointment would exacerbate hostility toward the West in Muslim countries, including Afghanistan, where NATO’s military operation is the biggest in its history.

The Taliban have made a comeback in recent years after being driven out of Kabul by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001.

The al Qaeda-backed group has vowed to drive the foreign troops out of Afghanistan.

Reporting by Sayed Salahuddin; Editing by David Fox