Taliban threatens Pope with 'severe reaction' ahead of Middle East visit

The Taliban has warned Pope Benedict XVI that he will feel “the consequences of a severe reaction” if Christianity is allowed to be preached in Afghanistan. The Pope is due to begin his tour of the Middle East today and will meet King Abdullah on his visit to Jordan, before heading to Israel.

According to the ANSA news service, the Taliban issued a statement on an Islamic website following video footage on Al Jazeera showing US soldiers with Bibles translated into the Afghan language.

The statement, on the website Alemarah1.org, said, "The Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan asks Pope Benedict XVI to act to stop the foolish and irresponsible actions of the crusaders upsetting the feelings of Muslim rebels, without awaiting the consequences of a severe reaction.

"The Taleban forcefully exhort the mujaheddin [jihadis], scholars and all religious circles to control the activities of the invaders and crusaders, and not allow anyone to preach religions except Islam," the message continued.

The US Army has said that the offending Bibles had been confiscated and destroyed and confirmed that proselytism by on duty troops was forbidden.

Islamic extremists in Jordan have also condemned the Pope’s visit to the country on the grounds that the Pope did not apologise for offending Muslims by quoting a Byzantine emperor who said, “Show me just what Muhammad brought that was new and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached.”

Following the Pope’s comments in 2006, the Vatican released a statement in which the Pope expressed his regret at having caused offence to Muslims and reiterated that his intention was merely to speak against all forms of religiously motivated violence.

Despite this, Zaki Bani Rusheid, head of the Islamic Action Front, one of Jordan’s biggest political parties, was quoted by Reuters as saying, "The present Vatican pope is the one who issued severe insults to Islam and did not offer any apology to the Muslims."