updated 12/30/2006 4:10:11 AM ET 2006-12-30T09:10:11

A top commander of Afghanistan’s Taliban said on Saturday that the execution of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein would galvanize Muslim opposition to the United States.

Mullah Obaidullah Akhund, a former Taliban defense minister and top insurgent commander, also said Saddam’s execution on the Eid al-Adha Muslim festival — marking the end of the annual pilgrimage to Mecca — was a provocation.

“Saddam’s hanging on the day of Eid is a challenge to Muslims,” Obaidullah told Reuters by telephone from an undisclosed location.

“His death will boost the morale of Muslims. The jihad in Iraq will be intensified and attacks on invader forces will increase,” he said. “Thousands of people will rise up with hatred for America.”

The Taliban intensified their war against the Afghan government and the U.S., British and other Western troops supporting it this year.

That brought the most intense violence since U.S.-led troops ousted the hard-line Islamists in 2001, and the Taliban have vowed to step up their campaign in the coming spring.

Obaidullah said President Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair were fighting Muslims, and that is why Saddam was executed.

“Bush and Blair have launched a crusade against Muslims. Saddam was hanged because he was a Muslim, while slaves like Jalal Talabani in Iraq and Hamid Karzai in Afghanistan have been given power,” he said.

“Muslims should not expect any good from these people,” he said, referring to the Iraqi and Afghan presidents.

“Muslims should unite against the infidels, join the jihad and support the mujahideen because jihad has become an obligation for Muslims all over the world.”

“God willing, both Afghanistan and Iraq will prove to be another Vietnam for America ... God willing, the invader forces in Afghanistan and Iraq will soon face defeat.”

In Kabul, Karzai declined to comment on Saddam’s execution, saying it was a matter for the government of Iraq and would have no impact on Afghanistan.

However, he too suggested the timing of the execution on the Eid holiday was wrong.

“Eid is a day of happiness, a day of goodness, a day of reconciliation, not a day of revenge,” Karzai told reporters at his presidential palace.

Copyright 2012 Thomson Reuters. Click for restrictions.

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