Uzbek protesters forced Taliban fighters to surrender their weapons


Since the Taliban returned to power in Afghanistan in August last year, information has trickled in about tensions building between the ethnic Uzbek, Turkmen, and Tajik communities in parts of northern Afghanistan and the mainly Pashtun Taliban fighters who have moved to the area in recent months, RFE/RL reported.

The growing animosity between those ethnic groups and the Taliban ignited briefly in Faryab’s provincial capital of Maimana in mid-January when protests over the arrest of a local leader led to clashes, the report said.

Makhdum Alem is a local Taliban commander in Faryab Province, which borders Turkmenistan.

An ethnic Uzbek, Alem was influential in working with the local leaders and elders from the ethnic groups in northern Afghanistan, securing the loyalty of those regions for the Taliban, the report said.

On January 12, Alem was summoned to Mazar-e Sharif in Balkh Province, where he was arrested on suspicion of his involvement in a kidnapping case, reportedly by Taliban Deputy Defense Minister Mullah Fazel.

When the word of Alem’s arrest reached Maimana the next day, a protest erupted with hundreds of mostly ethnic Uzbeks surrounding the security headquarters in the city, demanding Alem’s release, the report added.

Shooting started and at least four people were killed. The protesters forced the Taliban fighters to surrender their weapons and they were then marched out of Maimana.

Alem’s deputy, Turkoghlu, said if Alem is not released, the Taliban flag would be lowered from the security headquarters building.

The Taliban reportedly sent reinforcements to the area, including a squad of suicide bombers, but after four days of negotiations, the standoff ended, the report said.



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