Sun, May 28, 2006 - Page 5 News List

Taliban circulate gruesome videos for propaganda

THE GUARDIAN , LONDON

A roadside bomb rips through an American Humvee, flipping it like a toy. A slow-motion replay picks out a soldier being flung 30m into the air. "Thank Allah we killed the Americans," reads the caption. "We sent them to hell."

Camouflage-clad fighters engage in a vicious firefight with Afghan security forces. An alleged "collaborator" makes a distressed confession to the camera before his head is cut off. A wailing voice intones: "We will destroy the Americans and the British. We will send them to hell."

These images are taken from Taliban propaganda DVDs that are furtively sold or distributed free in bazaars across northern Pakistan. They highlight the growing sophistication of an insurgency that seems better funded, organized and armed than at any period since 2001.

The DVDs -- or, more often, cheaper VCDs -- offer a powerful means to motivate fresh recruits. Many feature galleries that glorify dead "martyrs." In one, a pair of suicide bombers stare into the lens, appealing for more volunteers to come forward.

The videos are usually slickly edited and sometimes cut with footage of the US military taken from Hollywood films such as Top Gun. They are also a powerful fundraising tool.

Western diplomats say the videos help to extract funds from wealthy Pakistanis and Middle Eastern conservatives.

"We estimate a good portion is Saudi," said one official, referring to longstanding ties between jihadis and followers of the strict Wahabi sect in Saudi Arabia.

The videos are part of a widening propaganda war that includes Taliban "night letters" -- threatening tracts delivered in the dead of night -- and hate-radio broadcasts.

The videos offer a glimpse of how easily jihadis can train undisturbed in the North and South Waziristan tribal agencies on Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

In one undated video, unidentified Arab fighters give recruits live-fire gun and rocket training, clearly unafraid of being disturbed. The picture shifts to infrared night vision as it follows the fighters to Khost Province in Afghanistan, where they overrun an Afghan police post.

But one of the most disturbing images shows the father of a jihadi "martyr." The bearded old man sits on a bed. One hand rests on the head of his grandson, a toddler cradling a pistol.

"My son is dead," he says. "Now our children will fight."

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