Date :Friday, November 16th, 2018 | Time : 22:33 |ID: 77929 | Print

Afghanistan: Hazara Shiites under Taliban attack in a war never seen before

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SHAFAQNAThousands of Shiites have fled their homes in two Hazara-dominated districts to escape the “absolute terror” of escalating violence by Taliban, with some describing the violence as the worst they had seen in the 17-year conflict.

The deadly incident occurred as a days-long battle with threatening ethnic overtones is still ongoing with the central government sending special forces units to back up local militia forces fighting against Taliban, a movement dominated by Sunni ethnic Pashtuns.

Hundreds of people, including civilians, militia, commandos and militants, have been killed, according to figures provided by locals and government officials.

Many families have fled to the provincial capital, some leaving their homes in the middle of the night and travelling on side roads to avoid Taliban checkpoints, DAWN reported.

One senior official said at least 35 civilians, mainly Hazaras, and over 50 members of the elite Special Forces had been killed in the clashes.

He estimated that more than 7,000 people have fled from Jaghori and Malistan either to Ghazni or into neighboring Bamiyan and more than 3,000 homes had been razed.

Abdul Rahman Ahmadi, spokesman for the governor of Bamiyan province, which is adjacent to Ghazni and has a large Hazara population, said more than 4,500 internally displaced people had sought shelter in schools, mosques and private homes there.

“We are doing everything to help the fleeing villagers, many are in a state of shock,” he said.

The United Nations’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) in Afghanistan said the situation within the affected districts was chaotic, leaving people trapped in the districts facing “siege-like” conditions.

“We were scared, other people were fleeing so we decided to leave too,” said a woman called Zainab, who drove with her five children for 12 hours on dirt roads from her home in Jaghori district to Ghazni city.

“We have never seen this kind of war and my children and I were scared,” she told AFP, adding her husband had stayed behind to protect their property.

The escalation in fighting comes amid a flurry of diplomatic activity to convince the Taliban to negotiate an end to the war.

Jaghori district “is surrounded by Taliban and there are a lot of them”, Mohammad Ali told AFP in a mosque where he is staying with nine family members, Gulf Times reported.

“Theywere very well equipped with night-vision goggles and heavy weapons.”

Prior to the fighting, Jaghori district , inhabited mainly by Hazaras, a mainly Shia minority, was known as a relatively liberal enclave with high levels of education and women’s rights.

“Jaghori was the only district where women could drive a car freely and pursue higher education without worrying about militant attacks. But now it will all change,” said one foreign security expert, Japan Times reported.

Large parts of Ghazni province are already under the control of the Taliban after the militants briefly overran the provincial capital, Ghazni city, in August before they were pushed back by Afghan forces backed by U.S. airstrikes.

Ghazni – which was briefly overrun by the Taliban in August – is strategically important as it is located on a highway connecting the capital Kabul to the major southern city of Kandahar. It is also a gateway into the mountainous central province of Hazara, also home mainly to Shia Hazara people.

Bomb attack targets anti-violence rally in Kabul

The stepped-up violence in Ghazni prompted protests in Kabul Earlier this week, when hundreds of Shia Hazaras took to the streets demanding better security in the troubled region.

a bomb attack hit a security checkpoint near the site of the rally in central Kabul, an area that also hosts the finance and justice ministries and is close to the presidential palace.

Six people were killed in the explosion, said Najib Danish, an Interior Ministry spokesman. Ten policemen and civilians, including women, were also wounded.

Hours later, the Islamic State group claimed responsibility for the attack, which took place about 500 meters (yards) from where hundreds of minority Shias had gathered to denounce the latest Taliban attacks in Ghazni districts of Jaghuri and Malistan.

In a statement posted on its media arm, the Aamaq news agency, IS said it targeted a gathering of Shias. Both the Taliban, who now control nearly half of Afghanistan and stage near-daily attacks on Afghan forces, and the Islamic State group’s affiliate in the region have been behind many recent Kabul attacks and bombings, IOL reported.

The U.S, along with a number of fellow-NATO members, invaded Afghanistan in 2001, toppling a Taliban regime in control of most of the country at the time, but it has failed to restore security and the country continues to be plagued by militancy and terrorism.

The Daesh terror group has also used the chaos to establish a foothold in Afghanistan.

The latest escalation comes as US envoy Zalmay Khalilzad returned to the region as part of efforts to convince the Taliban to end the 17-year militancy amid Washington’s failures on the battleground, press tv told.

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