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No Taliban Reprieve During Ramadan In Afghanistan

July 13th 2013

Taliban soldiers

As Afghanistan welcomes Ramadan in the spirit of worship and forgiveness, the Taliban has vowed to step up its campaign of violence during the holy month.

This is a reversal from the norm in Afghanistan, where the near-continuous fighting traditionally slows during Ramadan. But this summer, which has already seen a worrying uptick in violence, the militant group has pledged no letup.

Ramadan carries extra religious significance for the Taliban, which claims that jihad provides more rewards during the period of religious observance considered one of the five pillars of Islam. According to Islamic teachings, Allah multiplies any good deed during Ramadan by 70. "During the holy month of Ramadan, jihad has major rewards," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi said in an e-mail statement sent out on July 5. "Mujahedin will continue to employ all their fighting techniques to mount attacks on the enemy."

Early indications are that the Taliban will stay true to its word. On July 9, the day before Ramadan in Afghanistan, a roadside bomb struck a motorcycle-drawn cart carrying women and children in western Afghanistan, killing 17 people. On July 11, at least five people -- including two police officers -- were killed when two bombs exploded in southern Afghanistan.

Wahid Muzhda, a political analyst and former Taliban spokesman, says the Taliban carrying out operations during Ramadan is nothing new but vengeance could be behind this year's message. Muzhda says the Taliban may have been provoked by a purported Taliban message on July 5 that was rejected as fake by the militant group. That message said the Taliban would temporarily halt attacks during Ramadan.

The message was sent in the name of another Taliban spokesman, Zabiullah Mujahid, but he said his account had been hacked. He said it was the latest in an escalating cyberwar between Afghan intelligence and the militants. "In that mail the enemy losers have tried to influence attacks by mujahedin fighters," Mujahid said. "We strongly reject sending any such e-mail on a stoppage of operations."

Frud Bezhan reports for RFE/RL, from where this article is adapted.

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