Kandahar (Afghanistan) (AFP)
More than 22,000 Afghan families have fled their homes to escape the fighting in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, officials said on Sunday, as authorities arrested four suspected insurgents for this week’s rocket attack on Kabul.
Since early May, violence has increased in several provinces, including Kandahar after insurgents launched a massive offensive just days after US-led foreign forces began their final withdrawal.
The deadly Taliban assault saw insurgents seize dozens of districts, border posts and surround several provincial capitals.
“The fighting has displaced 22,000 families in the past month in Kandahar,” Dost Mohammad Daryab, head of the provincial refugee department, told AFP.
“They’ve all moved from unstable parts of the city to safer areas. ”
On Sunday, fighting continued on the outskirts of Kandahar City.
“The negligence of some security forces, especially the police, has allowed the Taliban to come closer,” Lalai Dastageeri, deputy governor of Kandahar province, told AFP.
“We are now trying to organize our security forces. “
Local authorities had set up four camps for the displaced people who are estimated to number around 154,000.
Hafiz Mohammad Akbar, a resident of Kandahar, said his house was taken by the Taliban after he fled.
“They forced us to leave… I now live with my family of 20 in a complex with no toilets,” Akbar said.
– Fears of fighting are increasing –
Residents have expressed fears that the fighting will escalate in the coming days.
“If they really want to fight, they should go to a desert and fight, not destroy the city,” said Khan Mohammad, who moved to a camp with his family.
“Even if they win, they can’t run a ghost town. “
Kandahar, with its 650,000 inhabitants, is the second largest city in Afghanistan after Kabul.
The southern province was the epicenter of the Taliban regime when they ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.
Driven from power in a 2001 US-led invasion after the 9/11 attacks, the Taliban led a deadly insurgency that continues to this day.
Their latest offensive launched in early May saw the group take control of half of the country’s 400 or so districts.
Earlier this week, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, said the Taliban appeared to have “strategic momentum” on the battlefield.
# photo1 But global human rights group Human Rights Watch said there were reports the Taliban were committing atrocities against civilians in areas they captured, including in the town of Spin Boldak near the border with Pakistan they captured earlier this month.
“Taliban leaders have denied responsibility for any abuse, but growing evidence of deportations, arbitrary detentions and killings in areas under their control are raising fears among the population,” said Patricia Grossman, associate director for the Asia at HRW, in a statement.
Authorities said they had arrested four men who belonged to the Taliban, accusing them of carrying out this week’s rocket attack on Kabul.
“A Taliban commander, Momin, along with his three other men, were arrested. They all belong to the Taliban group, ”ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanikzai told reporters in a video message.
At least three rockets landed near the palace on Tuesday as President Ashraf Ghani and his senior officials performed outdoor prayers to mark the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
The attack was, however, claimed by the jihadist group Islamic State.
© 2021 AFP