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Afghan villages where Taliban rule at night

07 december 2013, 14:46
0
Jahanzeb (C) works in a flour warehouse in Jalalabad in Nangarhar province. ©AFP
Jahanzeb (C) works in a flour warehouse in Jalalabad in Nangarhar province. ©AFP
Jahanzeb says he can no longer live in his home village in eastern Afghanistan where, when night falls, fear rules in "the kingdom of the Taliban", AFP reports.

The terrified 30-year-old has fled to the nearby major city of Jalalabad and spends his days tediously filling sacks of flour for a pittance, separated from his family.

"I would prefer to be in my home district," he told AFP, studiously pouring 49 kilogrammes of flour into a bag for which he will be paid the equivalent of five euro cents.

"But I am here because there is always fighting there. In the fields, houses, everywhere."

Jahanzeb's village, Pacher, is an hour's drive from Jalalabad, in the southeast of Nangarhar Province.

"I miss it," Jahanzeb said mournfully.

Only four or five of Nangarhar's 22 districts are considered safe, with the others controlled or strongly influenced by the Taliban, according to local sources interviewed by AFP.

Where Jahanzeb hails from, Pacher Wa Agam district, falls into the latter category. Its instability is a major concern as the country approaches the withdrawal of 75,000 NATO troops by the end of next year.

"At night-time it is the kingdom of the Taliban," Jahanzeb said at the factory where he now works.

"They are attacking government security checkpoints.

"The authorities cannot come out of their offices. The presence of the district government is just in name. There is no security."

Jahanzeb fears conditions will worsen when international forces leave as Taliban Islamists try to regain power since being overthrown by a US-led coalition in 2001.

"The situation is going to deteriorate," he insisted.

On Sunday, an Afghan grand assembly, known as a "loya jirga", endorsed a crucial security agreement allowing some US troops to stay on in the country after 2014.

However, President Hamid Karzai has set conditions for signing the deal while some question whether it will be enough to keep insurgents at bay.

'More people becoming insurgents'

Mullah Baturai, who fought for the Taliban for six years until recently, said increasing numbers of militants and an infiltration of foreign fighters worsened the security challenge.

"For the past year and a half there are more people becoming insurgents" in the province, he said.

"In our team there was interference of Pakistani militias.

"I really regret having joined the Taliban. I thought they were clean and did it only for jihad. I didn't know there were some mercenaries who wanted to fight for money."

In his Jalalabad office the energetic and assertive deputy governor Mohammad Hanif Gardiwal insists the province is stable but admits "remote areas" are a problem.

"We have a close border with Pakistan, and opponents have been seen to cross the border, which is a threat to our security."

But while some worry that the departure of international forces will create a vacuum, particularly in aerial support, not all are in unanimous support of NATO and some are counting down the days to its departure.

Mohammad Qasim, a farmer from Sirja Ali Khan village on the outskirts of Jalalabad, pointed to craters the size of bowling balls on his land.

The hollows are a painful reminder of a NATO air raid on October 4 that killed two of his sons and a nephew as they returned from hunting sparrows.

The boys were buried at the entrance to the village. A large banner there declares them as "martyrs".

"I think the foreign forces have come here to kill us," Qasim said.

"They are our enemies. Can you tell us what sort of help they have done for us apart from bringing pain?"

A day after the strike, the coalition said it had "responded to an attack by conducting a precision strike against insurgents".

NATO recently told AFP it was investigating what happened. According to deputy governor Gardiwal, NATO admitted it had made a mistake and has apologised.

But for Qasim, that is not enough.

"My children feel fear when they see a helicopter and run away to the rooms," he said.

"I don't want apologies. I want them to be put on trial."

By Edouard GUIHAIRE

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