Kabul: The Taliban has destroyed opium fields in eastern Afghanistan in a surprise clamp down on the drug cultivation that provides a major part of its funding.
The Afghan Government and clerics have welcomed the action by the Taliban, but insurgents have claimed that they destroyed the fields for religious reasons, The Guardian reports.
"The provincial governor really appreciates what the insurgents did. From the perspective of Islam it is forbidden and a crime to grow drugs," Wasifullah Wasifi, a spokesman for the provincial governor in Kunar Wasifi, said.
He added that nearly a hectare of cultivation had been destroyed by the Taliban in the province`s Manawara District.
The country representative of the UN Office on Drugs and Crime in Afghanistan, Jean-Luc Lemahieu, confirmed that the Taliban had destroyed poppy fields in Kunar.
"We welcome this new approach and would hope that this is not a one-time exception but that the Taliban, and others alike, would take a principled stance against the narcotics business," he said.
Villagers in Manawara District were warned before the sowing season against cultivating opium, district governor Habib Rahman Mohmand said.
"The Taliban leadership in Kunar sent down an order to the ordinary people that they should not grow drugs, or the crop would be destroyed," Mohmand said. "Around 20 days ago the Taliban groups came and destroyed it," he added.
A local Taliban fighter who said he was involved in destroying the fields confirmed that the decision had come from a top commander for religious reasons.
"It was an order from Zia al-Rahman. We went to the site to destroy the drug fields," the militant said.
Opium production has flourished since the fall down of the Taliban by US-backed forces in 2001, even though it has been widely been condemned by clerics as un-Islamic.