Over 22,000 Afghan Families Flee From Kandahar.
More than 22,000 Afghan families have fled their homes to escape fighting in the former Taliban stronghold of Kandahar, authorities said on Sunday, as authorities arrested four suspected insurgents in this week’s rocket attack in Kabul.
Since early May, violence has escalated in several provinces, including Kandahar, after insurgents launched a radical offensive just days after US-led foreign forces began their final withdrawal.
The deadly assault by the Taliban has seen insurgents seize dozens of districts, border crossings and surround several provincial capitals.
“The clashes have displaced 22,000 families in the last month in Kandahar,” Dost Mohammad Daryab, head of the provincial refugee department, told AFP.
“Everyone has moved from volatile city districts to safer areas.”
On Sunday, fighting continued on the outskirts of Kandahar city.
“The negligence of some security forces, especially the police, has led to the Taliban getting so close,” Kandahar province deputy governor Lalai Dastageeri told AFP.
“Now we are trying to organize our security forces.”
Local authorities had established four camps for displaced people, an estimated 154,000.
Hafiz Mohammad Akbar, a resident of Kandahar, said the Taliban had seized his home after he fled.
“We were forced to leave … Now I am living with my family of 20 in a complex without a bathroom,” Akbar said.
Fears to fight to increase
Residents expressed concern that clashes could increase in the coming days.
“If they really want to fight, they should go to a desert and fight, not destroy the city,” said Khan Mohammad, who moved to a camp with his family.
“Even if they win, they can’t rule a ghost town.”
Kandahar, with its 650,000 inhabitants, is the second-largest city in Afghanistan after Kabul.
The southern province was the epicenter of the Taliban regime when they ruled Afghanistan between 1996 and 2001.
Overthrown from power in a 2001 US-led invasion after the September 11 attacks, the Taliban have spearheaded a deadly insurgency that continues to this day.
Its latest offensive launched in early May has seen the group take control of half of the country’s 400 districts.
Earlier this week, the chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley said the Taliban appear to have “strategic momentum” on the battlefield.
But the human rights group Human Rights Watch said there were reports that the Taliban were committing atrocities against civilians in areas they had captured, including the town of Spin Boldak near the border with Pakistan that they captured earlier this month.
“Taliban leaders have denied responsibility for the abuses, but growing evidence of expulsions, arbitrary detentions and killings in areas under their control are raising fears among the population,” Patricia Grossman, HRW associate director for Asia, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, the authorities announced that they had arrested four men who they said belonged to the Taliban, accusing them of carrying out this week’s rocket attack on Kabul.
“A Taliban commander, Momin, along with his three other men, have been arrested. They all belong to the Taliban group,” ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanikzai told reporters in a video message.
At least three rockets fell near the palace on Tuesday as President Ashraf Ghani and his senior officials held prayers outdoors to mark the start of the Muslim holiday of Eid al-Adha.
However, the attack was claimed by the jihadist group Islamic State.
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