NANGARHAR -- Increased fighting between the Taliban and the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria" (ISIS) has forced thousands of residents of Khogyani and Sherzad districts of Nangarhar Province to flee their homes.
The skirmishes between the two rival insurgent groups broke out on April 14 and have been continuing intermittently since, military and government officials say.
"Battles between ISIS and the Taliban take place from time to time," Ataullah Khogyani, a spokesman for the Nangarhar provincial governor, told Salaam Times. "They are still fighting in the remote areas of Khogyani and Sherzad districts."
Afghan artillerymen have shelled militant hideouts a number of times, inflicting casualties on both the Taliban and ISIS, Capt. Haroon Yousafzai, a spokesman for the 201st Silab Corps of the Afghan National Army, told Salaam Times.
"Dozens of ISIS and Taliban members were killed," he said.
Both insurgent groups "are enemies of our government", Khogyani said. "We have begun operations in Sherzad [District], and soon we will launch operations and crush the enemy in the remote areas of Khogyani District as well."
More than 8,000 families displaced
More families again have been forced to flee the region to escape the violence.
"So far, more than 8,500 families have been displaced from Sherzad and Khogyani districts" by the fighting between ISIS and the Taliban, Najibullah Qayumi, director of the provincial Directorate of Refugees and Repatriations, told Salaam Times.
"These families fled within two weeks and settled in various areas" such as Jalalabad city, he added.
"These families have moved from Khadarkhil, Gandumak, Tarmay, Lara Ghaara and Bara Ghaara of Sherzad and the Markikhil, Nakurkhil, Hashimkhil, Qailaghoo and Zawa areas of Khogyani District," Qayumi said.
The renewed combat is taking a toll on families who had returned to the area after fleeing earlier violence between the two groups, said Irfanullah Rahmat, a resident of the Sra Kala neighbourhood in Khogyani District.
"ISIS and the Taliban began fighting in the Wazir Valley a few months before," he told Salaam Times. "At that time, thousands of civilians and families fled the area and reached safe havens here."
"Now, not many residents live there because they are scared, but still some families who could not live in the city and in other areas returned to their areas, and they live in fear," he said.
"The government should conduct operations in these areas and has to keep the areas" it captures so that the militants cannot return, he added.
A call for more military operations
More military operations are needed even though past operations have reduced the number of militants in the area, said Gul Wazir Khogyani, a resident of Bar Behar village, Khogyani District.
"ISIS militants remain in a small part of the Wazir neighbourhood of Khogyani District" though troops have driven them from other areas nearby, he told Salaam Times. "In the past, there were more of them, but now their number has decreased."
Pockets of fighters remain in the Wazir area, confirmed Ahmad Ali Hazrat, chairman of Nangarhar's provincial council. He called on the military to ensure that the terrorists are chased out for good.
The military "has to keep the areas it is capturing so that ISIS or other terrorist groups aren't able to return," he told Salaam Times.
Mohammad Samim Khogyani said the arrival of militants has forced his family to flee from the Zawa neighbourhood of Khogyani District to the residential area of Memla.
"ISIS men are cruel, and they even burned civilians' homes," he told Salaam Times. "The government should conduct operations and arrange for our return back home."