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A Taliban leader has issued a statement in four languages calling on Afghans to plant more trees.

The rare public announcement comes amid fears of fresh attacks that usually spike during springtime.

Taliban leader Mullah Haibatullah Akhundzada said Sunday, “the mujahedin and beloved countrymen must join hands in tree planting," adding that trees have an “important role in the environmental protection, economic development, and beautification of Earth."

The message still cites that the Taliban will continue to be actively engaged "in a struggle against foreign invaders and their hirelings,” referring to the Kabul government, which the Taliban wants to overthrow.

Afghan Government's Reaction

But Afghan government officials dismissed the message and called it a way to “deceive public opinion” and distract others from the group's “crimes and destruction.”

Shah Hussain Murtazawi, deputy spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, said, “Since the establishment of the Taliban movement, the only things these people have in their minds are fighting, crimes, and destruction."

The United Nations reported the highest number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2015, with 11,500 people dead or wounded. More than 3,000 children were among the victims, an increase of 24 percent from the previous year, the UN said.

“They should stop planting IEDs [improvised explosive devices] that are killing so many innocent Afghans, including children and women, daily,” said Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqqi.

Wahid Muzhda, a political analyst in Kabul, said messages of “planting trees” or claiming the group is building roads and bridges are usually the way the Taliban hope to show they would bring leadership in areas of the country they control.

-- Written by Voice Of America

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