KANDAHAR, AFGHANISTAN's -- Afghanistan's Taliban guerrillas launched a clandestine radio station on Monday, broadcasting anti-government commentaries and Islamic hymns from a mobile transmitter.
Called "Shariat Shagh," or Voice of Shariat, after the station the Taliban ran while in power, the broadcast can be heard in five southern provinces, including the former regime's old power base of Kandahar.
"We launched the broadcast today through a mobile facility," said Taliban spokesman Abdul Latif Hakimi.
"It goes on the air between six and seven o'clock in the mornings and same time in the evenings," he said by telephone from an undisclosed location.
Hakimi said the Taliban, fighting an insurgency in the south and east of the country since they were driven from power in late 2001, needed their own voice because the world's media were pro-American.
Many Afghans listen to the BBC and Voice of America which broadcast in the country's two main languages, Pashto and Dari. In addition to government-run radio, numerous small, private stations have sprung up, many funded by aid donors.
As well as Islamic hymns and anti-government commentaries, the Taliban station also criticized U.S. and other foreign troops operating in Afghanistan since the Taliban were ousted.
Asked what the Taliban would do if U.S. forces detected and destroyed their transmitter, Hakimi said they would set up another.
Taliban attacks have picked up following a winter lull after the guerrillas failed in a vow to disrupt an October presidential elections won by President Hamid Karzai.
But their activity is down on past years, fueling speculation the movement may be struggling to find recruits and resources.
Karzai has said his government is in contact with Taliban members to try to persuade them to lay down their arms and abandon a bloody insurgency that has claimed more than 1,000 lives in the past two years.
The commander of U.S. forces in Afghanistan, Lieutenant-General David Barno, said at the weekend the Taliban were desperate but still dangerous.
U.S.-led forces toppled the Taliban government after it refused to hand over al Qaeda chief, Osama bin Laden, the architect of the Sept. 11 attacks on U.S. cities.
© Reuters 2005