Germany blasts Taliban official’s appearance at Cologne mosque

Afghan Talib in Germany

COLOGNE: Germany on Monday condemned an appearance by a Taliban official at a mosque in Cologne, with the interior minister demanding explanations from the Turkish organisation running the site, international media reported.

Abdul Bari Omar, who is an official with the Taliban-run health authority in Afghanistan, attended the mosque to speak at a conference organised by an Afghan association in the city.

“The appearance of a representative of the Taliban in Cologne is completely unacceptable and must be strongly condemned. “No-one should offer radicals a platform in Germany,” said Interior Minister Nancy Faeser.

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She urged Ditib, the Turkish-Islamic association managing the mosque in the city’s Chorweiler district to explain “how it could have been possible that the room was used” in this manner. Ditib’s management said it had no prior knowledge of the Taliban official’s planned appearance.

“Contrary to the original contract, it was transformed into a political event and a speaker who was not known to us had been invited,” it said. Ditib rejected “any proximity — even spiritual — to the Taliban”.

The foreign ministry said the Taliban official had not been issued with a visa to enter Germany. He had apparently been able to travel to the country using a Schengen visa issued by a “neighbouring country”, it added.

Local media said Omar had arrived from the Netherlands, where he had participated in a World Health Organisation conference in early November.

Since the Taliban swept back to power in August 2021, billions of dollars in aid and assets have been frozen by the West in what the United Nations has described as an “unprecedented fiscal shock” to the aid-dependent Afghan economy.

Ditib — the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs — is one of the largest Islamic organisations in Germany.

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