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Taliban say hackers posted fake announcement about Mullah Omar
KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) ' The Taliban in Afghanistan insisted Wednesday that their leader Mullah Mohammed Omar was alive, saying a text message and Internet posting announcing his death were fake.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told The Associated Press that the early morning announcement about Mullah Omar was the result of a hack.
"He is overseeing operations in the country," Mujahid told The Associated Press. "Outsiders must have hacked into Taliban phones and the website." Mujahid blamed U.S. intelligence agencies, saying they were trying "to demoralize the Taliban."
Mullah Omar has led the decade-long insurgency against the U.S.-led military coalition and the Afghan government of President Hamid Karzai. He ruled most of Afghanistan as leader of its Taliban government before the United States and its allies invaded on Oct. 7, 2001, in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks.
Violence has spiked recently in Afghanistan as the U.S.-led coalition begins a process of transferring security in areas they feel Afghan forces are strong enough to control.
So far, the transfer largely has been restricted to provincial capitals as much of the country remains lawless and unstable after a decade of war. The transition ultimately will lead to the withdrawal of all foreign combat troops by the end of 2014.
On Wednesday, U.S. forces are to transfer responsibility for Lashkar Gah, the capital of war-torn Helmand province. They will retain responsibility for the other areas in the predominantly Pashtun province that remain under the influence of the Taliban and other insurgent groups.
U.S. forces turned over control of Mehterlam, the capital of Laghman province, on Tuesday. Bamiyan and Panjshir, which have seen little violence, are the only entire provinces to be handed over.
Also Wednesday, a gunbattle killed three Afghan police officers and two insurgents in the southern city of Kandahar. Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi said police came under fire overnight when they surrounded a home where insurgents were believed to be hiding.
Sediqqi said the three dead policemen included the district chief.
Twin explosions late Tuesday in the eastern city of Ghazni killed four civilians and wounded more than 20, said provincial police chief Zirawer Zahid.
NATO also announced it had killed numerous insurgents belonging to the al-Qaida affiliated Haqqani network during a Tuesday raid in the eastern province of Paktika, along the border with Pakistan.
It did not provide an exact number for the insurgents killed in the Afghan-led operation. The Haqqani network, which supports the Taliban, operates in a number of Afghanistan's eastern provinces and retains safe havens in Pakistan's lawless tribal areas. NATO also said it killed several insurgents during a raid to capture a Taliban leader in eastern Nangarhar province.
Associated Press writers Amir Shah and Rahim Faiez contributed from Kabul.