Kabul: The killing of al-Qaeda chief Osama bin Laden by American troops will boost the fight against foreign invaders in Afghanistan, the Taliban said in a statement.

In their first substantive reaction to this week’s assassination of bin Laden in Pakistan, the Taliban said his death would “lead hundreds more to the field of martyrdom and sacrifice.”

They had previously said it was “premature” to comment on the death in a statement on Tuesday which seemed to cast doubt on whether bin Laden had been killed.

The Taliban comments came as al-Qaeda confirmed bin Laden’s death but warned that those celebrating his killing would have their “blood mixed with tears” and vowed the movement would live on.

“The Islamic emirate believes the martyrdom of Sheikh Osama bin Laden will give a new impetus to the current jihad against the invaders in this critical phase of jihad,” an email statement released on Friday by Taliban spokesman Tariq Ghazniwal said.

The Taliban admitted for the first time in its statement that bin Laden had died, or “embraced martyrdom as per the will of the almighty Allah”, during a raid by US commandos on his heavily-fortified compound on Sunday.

But the statement warned that the United States and other Western countries with troops in Afghanistan should not “wallow in this optimism” created by bin Laden’s death.

“The sapling of jihad has always grown, spruced and reached fructification through irrigation by pure blood,” the statement said.

“The martyrdom of a martyr leads to hundreds more to head to the field of martyrdom and sacrifice.”

Under the protection of the Taliban, who then ruled Afghanistan, bin Laden set up militant training camps in the country in the 1990s.

After the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, the Taliban refused to hand bin Laden over, prompting the US-led invasion that toppled the regime.

A huge manhunt for bin Laden finally came to an end on Sunday, when US forces shot and killed him in a villa in Abbottabad, a garrison city two hours by road north of Islamabad.

There are currently around 130,000 international troops in Afghanistan, around two-thirds of them from the US, fighting insurgents including the Taliban. Foreign combat troops are due to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014.

(Agencies)