KABUL, Afghanistan – The leader of the Taliban in Afghanistan says his movement poses no threat to minorities or other countries, and that it will bring peace and economic development to the country if foreign forces withdraw.
Maulvi Haibatullah Akhunzadah issued the surprisingly moderate message Wednesday in honor of the Muslim Eid al-Adha holiday. It was not clear whether it signaled a major change by the insurgent group.
From 1996 until 2001, the Taliban ruled in accordance with a harsh interpretation of Islamic law. Women were barred from education and largely confined to their homes, Shiites and other minorities were persecuted, and the country hosted Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida.
Akhunzadah says the Taliban now believe in an "inclusive and representative system," and want a "free, independent and progressive" Afghanistan.