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Fighting in Panjshir triggers fresh claims of Taliban war crimes

Kabul, May 14, 2022- Resistance to the Taliban is flaring up in northeastern Afghanistan, and as reports of deadly fighting increase, so are claims of war crimes against civilians.

The fighting is centred in Panjshir province, a traditional hotbed of ethnic Tajik resistance to the Pashtun-dominated Taliban and the last province to fall to the extremist group after it seized control of the rest of the country in August 2021, RFE/RL reported.

Residents of the southern Dara district’s Abdullah Khel Valley said that an influx of Taliban fighters to counter growing unrest had led to extrajudicial killings, torture and beatings.

The violence has been attributed by some to defiance of the Taliban’s declaration that Eid al-Fitr be celebrated on May 1.

Locals marked the Islamic holiday on May 2 after a prominent imam criticized the Taliban’s decision as politicized, and issued a fatwa calling for it to be celebrated in keeping with the date set by Mecca, the RFE/RL report said.

They also report high casualties among Taliban fighters deployed from other provinces to quell fighting led by the resurgent anti-Taliban National Resistance Front (NRF) and to round up local religious figures and other potential insurrection leaders.

“As they (the Taliban) searched for the resistance, they encountered difficulties but took a number of young men hostage,” said one resident of Abdullah Khel Valley.

“There are dead bodies in every corner,” said Mullah Mahad, 41, another resident. “But they (locals) don’t have the right to bury their dead.”

Another resident, Gul Aqa, said that clashes with the NRF resulted in heavy losses for the Taliban.

“The Taliban sent more troops and military weapons to suppress the gunmen, but this time the National Resistance Front forces based in the Abdullah Khel Valley attacked the Taliban convoy,” he said.

The reported fighting has led to a war of words between the NRF and the Taliban, with the resistance group claiming in recent days that it had killed scores of Taliban fighters and taken control of large parts of the Abshar and Dara districts, including the Abdullah Khel Valley, RFE/RL reported.

The reports of renewed fighting have been accompanied by multiple videos on social media of apparent war crimes being carried out by Taliban fighters.

The videos, which RFE/RL was not able to independently verify, purportedly show Taliban fighters beating civilians and firing at civilian homes.

Other videos show alleged Taliban fighters shooting men one by one in a trench and allegedly executing a resistance fighter.

The reports of the mistreatment and killings of civilians led the European Union’s envoy to Afghanistan, Andreas von Brandt, to express his concerns about the situation in Panjshir.

“We mourn the innocent loss of life,” von Brandt wrote on Twitter on May 10.

“Once more, the situation underlines the need for overdue inclusive solutions in governing Afghanistan.”  (Agency)

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