(AFP) – Sep 11, 2007
KABUL (AFP) — Terrorism is a daily threat in Afghanistan six years after the 9/11 attacks that led the United States to topple the Taliban, the government said Tuesday on the anniversary of the Al-Qaeda attacks.
Despite achievements there are significant threats, presidential spokesman Homayun Hamidzada told reporters, citing in particular a suicide bombing in the southern province of Helmand on Monday that killed 29 people.
It was one of the deadliest since 2001 when the Taliban launched an insurgency after being toppled from government in a US-led invasion launched after the hardliners did not hand over Al-Qaeda leaders following 9/11.
Another suicide bombing in the same province on Tuesday tore through a convoy delivering fuel to NATO troops. Five Afghan civilian drivers were killed, the British military based there said.
"Since then (9/11), we have had significant achievements but the threat from terrorism still remains," Hamidzada told a regular weekly news briefing in the capital, Kabul.
"We still face terrorism on a daily basis," he said.
Attacks such as the one Monday in Helmand's Gereshk town "show if terrorism is not addressed, if it is not dried up at its roots, it'll threaten peace and stability in the country and the region," he said.
President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday condemned the attack, saying the aim was to thwart development in Helmand, the main producer of Afghanistan's illegal opium, which makes up 93 percent of world supply.
In a statement, he said "terrorists and drug smugglers, working with each other, attack police and innocent children so the government can't achieve its development projects in Helmand."
UN and other officials say that the Al-Qaeda-linked Taliban insurgency is in part funded by profits from the drugs trade.
Taliban and Al-Qaeda leaders are believed to have fled into Pakistan after a US-led coalition unleashed the invasion on October 7, 2001.
Visiting Deputy US Secretary of State John Negroponte told reporters in Kabul that while it was not clear where Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden was, it was significant that he and his cronies no longer had "free reign" in Afghanistan.
"I think our best assessment is that he is still alive and that he is somewhere in the Pakistan-Afghanistan border area."
But, "wherever he is, he is hiding, he and his close associate Mr Ayman al-Zawahiri.
"And that is a very different situation from the one that prevailed prior to September 11, 2001 when he had completely free use and access to and free reign in the country of Afghanistan," the diplomat said.
The extremist Taliban meanwhile vowed in a statement Tuesday to launch a new wave of attacks on government and Western military targets throughout the Muslim holy month of Ramadan due to start on Thursday.
An operation code-named "Nasrat," which means victory in Arabic, would include suicide bombings, roadside explosions and other attacks "throughout the country," the statement read to AFP by Taliban spokesman Yousuf Ahmadi said.
The threat comes a day after Ahmadi said his group was ready for peace talks offered by Karzai's government.
Insurgency-linked unrest has spiralled this year to claim more than 5,000 lives, according to an AFP count based on reports, with the violence focused in southern and eastern areas adjoining Pakistan.
Nearly 4,000 of the dead are militants themselves.
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