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Al-Qaeda calls for foreign civilian kidnappings in Afghanistan

world Updated: Sep 16, 2009 10:00 IST

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A senior Al-Qaeda official has called on the Taliban to wage a campaign of kidnapping foreign civilians in Afghanistan in order to force US-led forces to negotiate prisoner exchanges, Australian media reported.

The directive has been issued by veteran Al-Qaeda adviser Mustafa Hamid, also known as Abu Walid al Masri, and stems from the US detentions in Guantanamo Bay, former counter-terrorism analyst Leah Farrall told the Australian newspaper on Wednesday.

Farrall, who worked as a counter-terrorism intelligence analyst for the Australian Federal Police, said she had uncovered the Al-Qaeda internet document, written in late July, while completing a PhD on Al-Qaeda at Monash University in Australia.

The document, "The US Soldier in Afghanistan - the first step for the release of all prisoners of the war on terror", argues the capture of a US soldier earlier this year should be used as a precedent in a campaign of abducting Western civilians to negotiate the release of Taliban and Al-Qaeda prisoners.

"Directing his article at the Taliban's leadership, Masri said it was time for them to start targeting foreign civilians as well as military personnel," Farrall wrote in the Australian.

"He suggested that they, too, change the rules of the game as America had done. He told them it was permissible to now start taking foreign civilians from the street. Using this strategy, he advised, could result in the liberation of all prisoners held by America in its war on terror," she said.

"Masri argued America's detention and torture of Muslims, and its failure to distinguish between civilians and the military, justified the use of this new strategy. He said the Taliban should do as its enemy does."

Hamid has been detained in Iran since 2003 but remains an influential figure in the militant movement and maintains contact with his followers through jihadist websites, said Farrall.

Six weeks after his directive was released, New York Times journalist Stephen Farrell and his Afghan colleague were kidnapped in Afghanistan.

"This suggests there are now demonstrable consequences of this strategy on the ground in Afghanistan. There will be more kidnappings if it is fully embraced by the Taliban," she said.

British journalist Farrell was freed, but his colleague was killed in a rescue raid in early September.

Farrall said the article was the first public sanction by any senior militant figure of a systematic, long-term kidnapping campaign targeting civilians and military personnel in direct response to US detention policy in its war on terror.

"This shows Guantanamo blowback now has strategic consequences," she wrote.