Taliban issue ultimatum to Canada

CanWest News Service
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KANDAHAR, Afghanistan - The Taliban issued a dire warning to Canada on Sunday that if it does not withdraw its troops from Afghanistan, insurgents would continue to target all Canadians in the country, as they did earlier this week in an ambush attack on female aid workers outside Kabul.
The Taliban urged Canadians in an open letter to press the government to withdraw their troops from Afghanistan or risk further attacks.
"The Afghans did not go to Canada to kill the Canadians. Rather, it is the Canadians who came to Afghanistan to kill and torture the Afghan," the letter states, adding that they felt Canada was pandering to the United States in doing so.
"Therefore, you have to convince your government to put an end to the occupation of Afghanistan, so that the Afghans are not killed with your hands and so that you are not killed with the hands of the Afghans."
In a statement, Defence Minister Peter MacKay condemned the letter, saying that it will not waver the goals of Canadian soldiers currently in Afghanistan.
"This letter is a disgusting attempt to justify the deliberate killings of innocent civilians. There is no justification for these killings by the Taliban," he said Sunday. "Canada is in Afghanistan at the request of the democratically elected government of that country."
He added that Canada will continue to try to bring stability and security to the Afghan people.
"We will continue to fight for these goals," MacKay said. "We will continue to protect the Afghan people from these ruthless killers."
A spokesman for Prime Minister Stephen Harper said Canada does not respond to threats from the Taliban.
"This has no effect whatsoever on the Canadian mission," spokesman Kory Teneycke told Canwest News Service. "The Taliban demonstrates time and again, its willingness to target civilians, including Afghan civilians as part of their efforts."
Earlier this week, four aid workers from the International Rescue Committee, including two Canadians, were killed in a brazen daylight ambush on a stretch of road just south of Kabul.
The Taliban have taken credit for the shooting deaths of Jackie Kirk, 40, of Montreal; Shirley Case, 30, of Williams Lake, B.C.; and Nicole Dial, a dual citizen of the U.S. and Trinidad. Their Afghan driver was also killed. The four were in the country working on educational programs for Afghan children.
In an interview earlier this week, Mohammad Hashim Mayar, deputy director of Agency Co-ordinating Body for Afghan Relief, said he believed the security situation outside of Kabul is worsening and that is leading to more attacks since a lot of the development work is being done outside of the country.
ACBAR represents more than half of the 200 NGOs doing development work in the country.
The Taliban say they are now targeting Western aid workers because they are promoting the agenda of the West. However, their critics, including Mayar, say their efforts are aimed at destabilizing any development in the country in order to make the NATO-backed Karzai government appear weak.
Liberal Leader Stephane Dion said during a visit to Montreal on Sunday that the Taliban warning does not surprise him.
"This letter is nothing new. We know the Taliban will use any means for their terrorist goal," he said. "So it's very important for NATO and the government of Canada to do everything to protect our civilians, not only brave men and women in uniform but the brave Canadians who are doing their best as activists to help the Afghan people."
World Vision, a non-profit international agency with workers in Afghanistan renewed its vows Sunday to continue its work in the war-torn country.
"All our staff go through rigorous security training and we're going to be increasing and strengthening security measures so we can continue to meet the dire needs of children and families in Afghanistan," spokeswoman Karen Homer said Sunday.

Organizations: Taliban, Canwest News Service, NATO International Rescue Committee World Vision

Geographic location: Canada, Afghanistan, Kabul United States KANDAHAR Montreal Williams Lake Trinidad

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