WASHINGTON - The Taliban have dismissed the use of a mutilated Afghan woman on a Time magazine cover as "desperate propaganda" and denied being the culprits, a U.S. monitoring group said Monday.
The Taliban said Time was lying when it accused the group of slicing off 18-year-old Aisha's nose and ears after she fled her abusive in-laws in southern Uruzgan province last year.
"This desperate propaganda by Time magazine has shown the whole world the lengths which the world media will go to please America, even at the cost of their journalistic integrity," a Taliban spokesman said.
Independent U.S. monitoring agency SITE said the English-language statement from the Taliban spokesman was posted on Saturday on the website of the group, which calls itself the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan.
The statement accused the Americans of "publishing these lies to divert attention of the people from their clear and disgraceful defeat.
"This picture published by Time magazine and the barbaric story wrongly attached to Islamic Emirate is not only false, but publishing these images are against the morals and ethics of professional journalism," it said.
"A lot of journalists worldwide have condemned this act of Time magazine and called it a crime against journalism.
"As far as the story of Aisha is concerned, Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan has condemned this barbaric, inhumane and un-Islamic act and declares that this case has never been forwarded to any court or persons of Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan."
The statement goes on to point out that under Islamic law the "cutting of human ears and noses whether the human is alive or dead is illegal and prohibited."
"We call on Time and other Western media to stop trampling on their own moral principles, just to hide and divert people's attention from America's military and political defeat by publishing such fabrications," it said.
"We also call on Afghan media to stop spreading the lies of Islam-hating Western media by becoming their translators. Journalism is an important duty, thus it should not be used in spreading mischief."
Aisha has become a symbol of a debate amongst commentators over the nature of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, with Time arguing Aisha's case demonstrates why the Taliban should never be allowed to return to power.
Aisha is soon to undergo surgery in the United States to rebuild her face.
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