Attacked on Eid, Takhar residents unite to chase out Taliban militants
KUNDUZ -- Residents of Farkhar District in Takhar Province were seeking to celebrate Eid ul Fitr on June 4 when Taliban fighters launched a co-ordinated attack on them.
It ended badly for the militants.
Local residents came together to oppose the fighters after Taliban members showed up and began harassing them, forcing them to pay ushr to the group and beating those whose family members serve with security forces.
The popular uprising force rose up against the insurgents at about 11am on June 4 in the village of Khafdara in Farkhar District and eventually pushed the fighters out of the area by early evening, said Abdul Rashad Asfeia, the district governor of Farkhar.
"First, we held a meeting with the local commanders of the popular uprising in Farkhar District, and we evaluated how to force the Taliban from this district," Asfeia said in an interview.
"Finally, we launched a popular uprising that included former mujahideen, tribal elders, influential figures, religious scholars and youth in various villages of Farkhar District," he said.
None of the members of the popular uprising or other local residents were hurt in the conflict, while Taliban fighters sustained some casualties, Asfeia said.
Members of the uprising said the spontaneously formed group was determined not to let the Taliban attain its goal of establishing insecurity in other parts of Takhar Province.
A number of Taliban members "took advantage of the absence of local residents who had gone to observe Eid prayers, and entered the villages of Farkhar [District]," Mohammad Taweel Azimi, leader of the local uprising, said in an interview.
"Farkhar's brave residents mobilised in groups against the Taliban and gave them a firm response, demonstrating that the Taliban and its ideology are not acceptable," Azimi said.
Afghans are united in the fight against the insurgents' aims, agreed Abdul Jamil Qayumi, a 38-year-old resident of Farkhar.
"Afghans have bitter memories of the Taliban, and we'll never let them reach their goals," he said.
"If we had given the Taliban an opportunity to take over our areas in the district, their presence would have undermined normal life," Qayumi said.
Residents vow resistance
Hameedullah Salimi, a 51-year-old resident of Farkhar District and a participant of the uprising force, does not want insecurity to dominate the area as innocent civilians are being killed every day.
He said he lost one of his brothers last August when his family members were travelling from the district of Dasht-e-Qala to Taloqan -- the capital of Takhar Province -- when a land mine planted by the Taliban blew up their vehicle.
"We the people of Farkhar -- including men and women, big and small -- will not let the Taliban create difficulties in our lives and use us like shields to order to reach their goals," Salimi said.
"We will not put down our arms until the whole area is cleared of the presence of this group," he added.
Arbab Samiullah Khalili, also a member the popular uprising, described the harsh treatment handed out by the Taliban during their time in the area.
"They beat six members of a family for co-operating with the government and ordered them to buy weapons [for the Taliban]," the 45-year-old said.
The Taliban also forced the residents of Khusda village "to leave their homes and they asked the farmers to give ushr for their agricultural land", Khalili added.
"We are standing by the government, and we will never let the Taliban attack our people," he said.
"If all Afghans decide to act this same way and force the Taliban from their areas, they [the Taliban] will never have a space to plant their feet in the country," said Attaulhaq Hussaini, a civil society activist and resident of Takhar Province .
He praised the measure taken by local residents to force out the Taliban from their areas, adding that the government should support such popular uprisings.
The local government will help and co-operate with popular uprisings, pledged Muhammad Jawad Hejri, a spokesman for the Takhar provincial governor.
"The government will provide material and moral support to the uprising members so that they can stand against the Taliban and other groups who challenge public security," Hejri said.
"Now with the uprising of popular forces, security has been tightened in the area."
At the same time, "efforts of other Afghan security and defence forces shouldn't be ignored," he said.
"After we received reports on the movements of the Taliban in parts of Farkhar District, we sent out supporting security forces to the area," said Abdul Khalil Aseer, a spokesman for the Takhar police department.
Additional security forces are present in Farkhar District and are on alert for any potential attack by the Taliban, Aseer added.