Thursday, July 29, 2021

Taliban looted, torched Afghan homes after evicting residents, says rights group

Villagers are caught between the Taliban and the government, with both sides forcing locals to help them.

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Taliban fighters in northern Afghanistan last month evicted families and looted and torched their homes in apparent retaliation for cooperating with the Kabul government, Human Rights Watch (HRW) said on Wednesday.

The “retaliatory attacks” were committed by insurgents participating in a Taliban offensive that has overrun scores of districts around Afghanistan, including an estimated 150 districts in Kunduz and other provinces north of the capital Kabul, the group said.

“The Taliban leadership has the power to stop these abuses by their forces, but haven’t shown that they are willing to do so,” Patricia Grossman, HRW’s associate Asia director said in a statement.

A Taliban spokesman did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters.

Last month, the Taliban published on Twitter an order to “military officials” to safeguard public property and “behave well with the general public”.

The Taliban launched their offensive, with a focus on the north, as US-led foreign forces withdrew further south after two decades of war.

US troops abandoned their main base, Bagram Airfield, earlier this week.

HRW said it conducted telephone interviews early this month with displaced residents of Bagh-e Sherkat, a town in Kunduz province from which some 600 families fled.

Displaced residents were quoted as saying that from June 21 to 25, Taliban fighters gave them two hours to leave their homes and threatened those who the insurgents accused of providing support to the Afghan government.

The Taliban fighters then looted and burned the vacated homes, and shot dead several civilians, displaced residents said.

“We helped the government and they left us to the Taliban,” an unidentified 24-year-old woman was quoted as saying.

“The Taliban have burned our houses. We are so scared. Both sides force us to help them. We are poor people, we don’t have any choice.”

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