Afghan po­lice search for vil­lagers af­ter kid­nap­ping

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

Afghan po­lice yes­ter­day launched a search for some 30 vil­lagers still miss­ing two days af­ter a mass kid­nap­ping blamed on Tale­ban mil­i­tants in the south­ern prov­ince of Kandahar. Seventy peo­ple were ab­ducted Fri­day from their vil­lage along the main road in the south and seven of them were found dead the fol­low­ing day along­side the high­way, from the city of Kandahar to Tarinkot in Uruz­gan prov­ince.

Around 30 peo­ple have been re­leased while 30 oth­ers re­main miss­ing, Kandahar po­lice spokesman Zia Dur­rani told AFP. It re­mained un­clear why the vil­lagers were seized. But some of­fi­cials said they sus­pected the Tale­ban had kid­napped or killed them for sus­pected co­op­er­a­tion with the Western­backed gov­ern­ment which the mil­i­tants are striv­ing to top­ple. The in­sur­gents have a heavy pres­ence in Uruz­gan, a poppy-grow­ing area.

Yes­ter­day they de­nied in­volve­ment, while con­firm­ing they had at­tacked po­lice check­points in the area. “Our mu­jahideen killed a num­ber of lo­cal po­lice and pro-gov­ern­ment mili­tias there, also cap­tur­ing 17 sus­pects who were later re­leased af­ter in­ter­ro­ga­tion. We have not killed or kid­napped any civil­ians,” the Tale­ban said in a state­ment. Civil­ians are in­creas­ingly caught in the crosshairs of Afghanistan’s wors­en­ing con­flict as the Tale­ban step up their an­nual spring of­fen­sive launched in April.

High­ways pass­ing through in­sur­gen­cyprone ar­eas have be­come ex­ceed­ingly dan­ger­ous, with the Tale­ban and other armed groups fre­quently kid­nap­ping or killing trav­el­ers. In July Tale­ban fight­ers closed a high­way con­nect­ing Farah to Herat city in the west, stop­ping a bus and forc­ing 16 pas­sen­gers off it. They shot at least seven of them while the re­main­der was taken hostage.

Else­where in the coun­try, the Tale­ban yes­ter­day cap­tured a district in the north­ern prov­ince of Faryab af­ter an overnight at­tack that trig­gered hours of heavy fight­ing, said provin­cial po­lice spokesman Ab­dul Karim Your­ish. He said troops had re­treated two kilo­me­ters from the cen­tre of Ko­his­tan district. There was no word on ca­su­al­ties.

Lo­cal me­dia on Sun­day also re­ported that the Tale­ban had over­ran Tay­wara district in the cen­tral prov­ince of Ghor, though there was no im­me­di­ate of­fi­cial con­fir­ma­tion. There has been a surge in fight­ing in sev­eral north­ern and south­ern Afghan prov­inces in re­cent days, in­clud­ing in Hel­mand in the south where 16 Afghan po­lice of­fi­cers were killed by a US air strike on Fri­day night.

The strike, the lat­est set­back in Wash­ing­ton’s ef­forts to pacify the coun­try, hit a com­pound in Gereshk district, large parts of which are un­der Tale­ban con­trol.

Afghan troops and po­lice are bat­tling largely alone on the ground against the in­sur­gency, af­ter US-led for­eign forces with­drew from most com­bat op­er­a­tions in De­cem­ber 2014.

The United States is ac­tively con­sid­er­ing send­ing more troops to Afghanistan and US com­man­ders there have re­quested thou­sands of ex­tra sol­diers on the ground. The US con­tin­gent now num­bers about 8,400, and there are an­other 5,000 from NATO al­lies, a far cry from the US pres­ence of more than 100,000 six years ago. They mainly serve as train­ers and ad­vis­ers.

Tale­ban seize 2 dis­tricts

Mean­while, Tale­ban fight­ers over­ran a sec­ond district head­quar­ters in as many days on Sun­day, this one in west­ern Ghor prov­ince, the provin­cial po­lice chief said. At least eight po­lice were killed in separate bat­tles against Tale­ban mil­i­tants, who have stepped up their at­tacks in the north and west of the coun­try lay­ing siege to district head­quar­ters, said Mo­ham­mad Mustafa Moseni.

Moseni said the Tale­ban launched four as­saults on Ghor’s Tay­wara district head­quar­ters early yes­ter­day and “we had no choice but to re­treat.” He said po­lice have taken up po­si­tions about 8 kilo­me­ters (5 miles) from the district head­quar­ters while they wait for re­in­force­ments to launch a coun­ter­at­tack. Af­ter cap­tur­ing Tay­wara district Tale­ban fight­ers stalked the cor­ri­dors of the only hos­pi­tal look­ing for wounded Afghan Na­tional Se­cu­rity per­son­nel to kill, said provin­cial pub­lic health depart­ment di­rec­tor Ghu­lam Nabi Yaghana.

He said he re­ceived re­ports that they killed four or five pa­tients. The area is re­mote and tele­phone com­mu­ni­ca­tion is spo­radic, he told The As­so­ci­ated Press in a tele­phone in­ter­view from the provin­cial cap­i­tal of Ferozkoh. He said Tale­ban en­tered the 20-bed hos­pi­tal early yes­ter­day. It’s be­lieved all the dead are mil­i­tary or po­lice per­son­nel, he said. The Tale­ban, in a state­ment to the me­dia, an­nounced the cap­ture of Tay­wara district head­quar­ters. The state­ment, how­ever, said 46 Afghan gov­ern­ment se­cu­rity forces were killed. The As­so­ci­ated Press could not in­de­pen­dently ver­ify ei­ther death toll.

— AFP

KABUL: In this pho­to­graph taken on July 21, 2017, Afghan Shi­ite mourn­ers gather to of­fer prayers for their rel­a­tives, mem­bers of the ‘En­light­en­ment Move­ment’, buried in a grave­yard on the out­skirts of Kabul.

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