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Taliban adopting Iraq-style jihad

A Taliban militant warns that his movement is more sophisticated – and more brutal – than before.

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Even in near-total darkness, the wounded Taliban fighter insists on masking his identity, his head and face covered by a tightly wound white cloth. Only two bright eyes and a confident voice tell how Afghanistan's Islamist militants are ramping up their fight against US and NATO forces.

He speaks a warning, of how the "new" Taliban has become more radical, more sophisticated, and more brutal than the Taliban ousted by US-led forces in 2001 – and of how its jihadist agenda now mirrors that of Al Qaeda, stretching far beyond Afghanistan.

Among the keys to the Taliban resurgence – which is sparking lethal violence on a scale unknown here for almost five years – are crucial lessons drawn from Iraq.

"That's part of our strategy – we are trying to bring [the Iraqi model] to Afghanistan," says the fighter. "Things will get worse here."

Those "things" include suicide attacks, assassinations of government officials, moderate clerics, and civilians, along with guerrilla tactics now in use against Western forces in the southern provinces of Helmand and Kandahar, where NATO claims to have killed more than 500 insurgents in 10 days of intense fighting.

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, speaking in Brussels Tuesday, said the Taliban now pose a greater danger than Al Qaeda. "The center of gravity of terrorism has shifted from al Qaeda to the Taliban," he told European lawmakers."

"This is a new element, a more dangerous element, because it [the Taliban] has its roots in the people. Al Qaeda didn't have roots in the people," he said.

On Tuesday, Afghan police said that they had arrested more than 30 people suspected of planning attacks; the US military reported detaining eight others.

"The Taliban have tried their best to avoid murdering civilians, but they finally found if they don't get active, they will lose this opportunity" to attack "infidel" Western troops, says the fighter. "Now you are seeing explosions everywhere."

Among the most recent suicide attacks was one near the US Embassy last Friday, killing two US soldiers and 14 Afghans.

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