Taliban Gaining Strength in Afghanistan as U.S. Security Deal Looms

Taliban Gaining Strength in Afghanistan as U.S. Security Deal Looms

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban’s reclusive leader is warning that a bilateral security pact allowing foreign troops to stay in Afghanistan beyond the end of this year will mean more fighting.

In a blow to hopes for peace talks, Mullah Mohammad Omar said Friday in an emailed message that the Islamic militant movement won’t end its war until the last foreigner leaves.

The Afghan government has agreed in principle to a security agreement that would allow nearly 10,000 U.S. soldiers to remain in a mainly training and advisory capacity. The deal has yet to be signed, although both candidates vying to replace President Hamid Karzai have promised to do so.

Mullah Omar says the “presence of limited number of troops under whatever title it may be will mean continuation of occupation and the war.”

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP’s earlier story is below.

Taliban insurgents halted minibuses in western Afghanistan, identified 14 Shiite passengers and shot them dead by the side of the road overnight Friday, an official said.

The busses were traveling from Kabul and carrying around 30 passengers, many of whom had gone to the capital to shop ahead of the holiday marking the end of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, said Sayed Anwar Rahmati, the governor of the western Ghor province, where the attack took place.

After questioning the passengers, the Islamic militants identified 14, including three women, as Hazara Shiites. The insurgents then bound the passengers’ hands, led them away and shot them, Rahmati said, adding that the other passengers were released. The dead included a couple who were engaged and two relatives travelling with them, he said.

The Taliban, like other Sunni extremist groups, view the country’s minority Shiite community as apostates, and have targeted Hazaras in the past with suicide bombings and other attacks.