By Sayed Salahuddin
KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban's reclusive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, in a rare message on Saturday called on Afghans to shun their differences and join the militant Islamic movement's campaign to drive Western troops from Afghanistan.
Omar made the appeal in a message through a Taliban spokesmen, Qari Mohammad Yousuf, on the eve of the 88th anniversary of Afghanistan's independence from Britain.
He said Afghanistan was once again "occupied by colonialist forces", referring to the nearly 50,000 foreign troops led by NATO and the U.S. military in the country.
"The enemies of the religion of Islam and independence of the country have launched satanic propagandas under the slogans of democracy and freedom and are trying to disperse Afghans and exploit from it," said the message.
"We have to ... put aside all of our internal, regional and linguistic differences and get united against the enemy," said the message, which was read to Reuters over the telephone by Yousuf from an undisclosed location.
The one-eyed elusive Omar carries a bounty of $10 million (5.02 million pounds) from U.S. government for his head.
Omar's whereabouts have been a mystery since U.S.-led forces invaded Afghanistan to overthrow the Taliban government in 2001 after he refused to hand over al Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden, the architect of the September 11 attacks on the United States.
The Taliban have stepped up their guerrilla warfare in the past 19 months, the bloodiest period since the movement's removal from power, particularly in the south and east of the country close to the border with Pakistan.
Inspired by insurgents in Iraq, the Taliban largely rely on suicide raids and roadside bomb attacks as part of their campaign against the Afghan government and the foreign troops.
In the message, Omar also urged Taliban guerrillas to avoid civilian casualties while fighting the Afghan government and the Western troops.
He has called on Afghan military and civilian officials to join the Taliban ranks for "Afghanistan's freedom and also for their own safety so that the honour of freedom be gained unitedly".Reuter