Over 1.5L Afghans seek refuge as fighting rages in Kandahar

Over 22,000 Afghan families have fled from their homes to escape fighting in the former Taliban bastion of Kandahar as authorities arrested four suspected insurgents over this weeks rocket attack on Kabul.

Local authorities have set up four camps for the displaced people, who are estimated to be about 154,000, Kabul Times reported.

Since early May, violence has surged across several provinces of Afghanistan, including Kandahar, after the insurgents launched a sweeping offensive just days after the US-led foreign forces began their final withdrawal.

The Taliban’s deadly assault has seen the insurgents capture scores of districts, border crossings, besides encircling several provincial capitals.

Dost Mohammad Daryab, the head of the provincial refugee department, said, “The fighting has displaced 22,000 families in the past one month in Kandahar. They have all moved from the volatile districts of the city to safer areas,” the Kabul Times reported.

On Sunday, fighting continued on the outskirts of Kandahar city.

“The negligence of some security forces, especially the police, has made way for the Taliban to come that close. We are now trying to organise our security forces,” said Lalai Dastageeri, Deputy Governor of Kandahar province, the report said.

Kandahar resident Hafiz Mohammad Akbar said that his house has been taken over by the Taliban after he fled.

“They forced us to leave… I am now living with my 20-member family in a compound with no toilet,” said Akbar.

The residents also expressed concerns that the fighting might increase in the days ahead.

“If they really want to fight, they should go to a desert and fight, not destroy the city,” said Khan Mohammad, who has moved to a camp with his family, the report said.

Kandahar, with its 650,000 inhabitants, is the second-largest city in Afghanistan after Kabul.

Meanwhile, global rights group Human Rights Watch has said that there were reports that the Taliban fighters are committing atrocities against civilians in areas they have captured, including in the town of Spin Boldak near the border with Pakistan which they captured earlier this month.

“Taliban leaders have denied responsibility for any abuses, but growing evidence of expulsions, arbitrary detentions, and killings in areas under their control are raising fears among the population,” Patricia Grossman, Associate Asia Director at HRW, said in a statement.

The authorities, meanwhile, announced that they have arrested four men belonging to the Taliban, who are accusing of carrying out this week’s rocket attack on Kabul.

“A Taliban commander, Momin, along with his three other associates have been arrested. They all belong to the Taliban group,” government spokesman Mirwais Stanikzai told reporters in a video message.

At least three rockets landed near the palace in Kabul on Tuesday, when President Ashraf Ghani and his top officials were performing outdoor prayers to mark the start of Eid al-Adha.

The attack was, however, claimed by the jihadist Islamic State group, the report said.