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Thursday, 21 October 2010

Taliban: 'Britons Are Our Main Bankrollers' [from: Sky News]

- October 17 05:43 pm, (c) Sky News 2010

A Taliban commander has told Sky News the bulk of its funding comes from the UK, where dedicated fighters are ready to launch terrorist attacks upon his order.

The regional leader made the claims at a secret meeting after we travelled deep into bandit country under the cover of darkness.

Far beyond the reach of any government or military authority, we drove through river beds and over passes into the mountains that divide Afghanistan and Pakistan.

This is Kunar province where the Taliban reign supreme and where, after months of negotiation, we were told we would meet the commander and his commando platoon.

Unsure what to expect, we were kept in a compound until late at night. Through the gloom the first shadowy figures appeared.

Thirty men in total, dressed in ordinary Afghan clothes but with their faces masked by their scarves, filed into a room that had been set aside for our meeting, their weapons and gun belts strapped over their shoulders.

The commander claimed to have over 1,000 men in this central region of Kunar, with more in Pakistan who cross the border with impunity.

He said they had been given special permission to speak to us by the Taliban leadership and that their usual order to take all foreigners hostage had been suspended for the duration of our meeting.

For an hour I questioned them about their tactics, their demands for withdrawal of all foreign military and asked them about their determination to keep fighting and to continue recruiting.

The commander said they were prepared to negotiate with the authorities but that the first demand on the agenda was unmovable; the foreign troops had to withdraw.

"We have endured a lot of pain from American forces in this place," he said.

"They have killed many. We tell our people of the ruthless way they kill and make our people suffer. We preach the teachings of the Koran - that Jihad is our birthright and our duty. And whoever we tell joins us immediately."

The commander revealed they are funded by individual donations gathered in community centres and mosques around the world. It was then he claimed, remarkably, Britain is the Taliban's greatest source of revenue.

"We are not like a government, we depend on individuals. We get donations from our Muslim brothers in Britain for Jihad," he said.

"It is the duty of all Muslims to pay towards fighting Jihad. This is how we get our money and buy our weapons and carry on fighting.

"Our brothers are rich in Britain and in Pakistan and they send the money to our leaders who distribute it to us and we use it for what we need to keep fighting."

How far the reach of the Taliban spreads beyond Afghanistan's borders is hotly disputed. But the commander claimed they have people in Britain, America and Europe who are prepared to attack. Not exactly sleeper cells, but very dangerous nonetheless.

"We send a message to all foreign nations that we will attack them at any time. It could be in the next two weeks or it could be today, tomorrow or the day after," he said.

"We will attack Britain as well," he added. "We have trustworthy people who will listen to us and are waiting for our orders."

Big claims; fundraising in Britain, people prepared to attack in Europe, free access and movement to Pakistan and thousands of new recruits. All virtually impossible to verify.

But that is the point: their insurgency thrives on their moonlit forays into rural communities.

The fear they bring perpetuates their existence and, in truth, whatever their actual size and reach, they undoubtedly exist and remain a potent threat.

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