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Last Updated: Friday, 9 June 2006, 09:13 GMT 10:13 UK
Taleban play down Zarqawi death
Abu Musab al-Zarqawi
Zarqawi urged militants to fight the US in Afghanistan
Afghan Taleban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar says Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's death will not weaken efforts against the West in Afghanistan, reports say.

The al-Qaeda leader in Iraq was killed in an air raid north of the town of Baquba on Wednesday evening.

A statement issued in the name of the Taleban leader mourned Zarqawi's death and hailed him as a "martyr".

The statement was forwarded to news agencies by a Taleban spokesman, Mohammad Hanif.

'Stronger than Zarqawi'

"I give good news to Muslims around the world, the resistance against the crusader forces in Afghanistan and other parts of the Islamic world will not be weakened," the statement said.

The statement was read out over a satellite phone by the Taleban spokesman.

It quoted Mullah Omar saying that he and "all the brothers of the sacred resistance movement in Afghanistan" were "deeply sad" over Zarqawi's death.

"Zarqawi's martyrdom will not weaken the resistance movement in Iraq. Many, many more young men can become Zarqawi.. The successors... can be even stronger than him."

Mullah Omar
A rare picture of Mullah Omar

The BBC's Bilal Sarwary in Kabul says Zarqawi knew Mullah Omar in the late 1990s when he set up a training camp in western Afghanistan.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai said on Thursday that Zarqawi had been responsible for the deaths of thousands of Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Zarqawi spent some time in Afghanistan fighting against Soviet forces.

He returned to Afghanistan for a longer spell when the Taleban were in control of the country. He left after the US-led invasion in 2001.

Zarqawi continued to play a role offering support to militants in Afghanistan fighting US and other foreign forces in the country.

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