Militants ambushed police on a southern Afghan mountain and killed five officers, officials said, while a statement issued Wednesday purportedly by Taliban commander Mullah Omar urged the insurgents not to end their armed struggle. It was not immediately possible to verify the authenticity of the Pashto-language statement. It was e-mailed to The Associated Press by Abdul Hai Mutmahin, who used to be a spokesman for the fundamentalist regime before it was ousted by U.S.-led forces in late 2001.
"I call upon the Muslim nation to be united against the clever occupation force until the aggressors leave our soil," the statement said. "Fighting jihad is an obligation. Abandoning jihad is a big sin and a cause for humiliation of Muslims. Stand with us with your resources, with your lives."
Purported Taliban spokesmen occasionally release statements they claim are by Omar, who is believed hiding in rugged mountains along the Afghan-Pakistan frontier. Wednesday's statement was the second received by e-mail.
Omar warned in the statement that the rebels will "intensify their attacks against the occupiers."
The Taliban have stepped up attacks in Afghanistan this year, leaving almost 1,500 people dead, making it the deadliest year since 2001. The violence has left large swathes of southern and eastern region off-limits to aid workers and raised fears for Afghanistan's nascent democracy.
U.S. military commanders predict the fighting is likely to ease during coming winter months as high mountain passes the insurgents use are covered with snow before picking up against in spring.
In the latest fighting, suspected Taliban rebels ambushed police late Tuesday as they were driving in mountains in Helmand province's Dishu district, said Ghulam Muhiddin, the provincial administrator.
Another purported Taliban spokesman, Qari Mohammed Yousaf, said insurgents beheaded the men after the battle, but this could not be confirmed, according to the AP.
Purported Taliban spokesmen often call news organizations to claim responsibility for attacks, often with information that proves exaggerated or untrue.
Rescuers found the pilot of one of the two Su-34 fighters that had collided in midair in the Far East on January 18