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Feb 26, 6:30 AM EST

Taliban leader encourages people to plant trees


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Taliban leader encourages people to plant trees

Rights group says Pakistan forcing Afghan refugees home

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KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) -- Springtime in Afghanistan usually brings a spike in violence as the Taliban takes advantage of the thaw to launch a wave of fresh attacks. But the Taliban's leader has just issued a statement calling on Afghans to plant more trees.

In a public letter issued Sunday in four languages, including English, Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada says that, "the Mujahideen and beloved countrymen must join hands in tree planting."

The statement does point out that the Taliban remain, "actively engaged in a struggle against foreign invaders and their hirelings" - a reference to the Kabul government that the militant group seeks to overthrow.

Shah Hussain Murtazawi, deputy spokesman for the Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, dismissed the statement as an attempt to "deceive public opinion" and distract from the Taliban's "crimes and destruction."

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