KUNDUZ -- In retaliation for losses incurred by Afghan government forces, the Taliban set ablaze a number of stores in Darzab District bazaar, in Jawzjan Province, severely injuring at least 10 civilians.
The Taliban set fire to the stores on November 16 after Afghan forces launched an operation to recapture areas in central Darzab District, said Abdul Marouf Azar, a spokesman for the Jawzjan provincial governor.
The Taliban launched an offensive to capture parts of Darzab District that are under the government's control, but they faced firm resistance from the Afghan security forces, he said.
The Taliban then resorted to setting fire to stores near the front line of the fighting.
"Store owners and some of their partners and friends were at their stores at night, and when the stores caught fire, 10 of them were injured," he said.
The owners were sleeping in the stores at night to guard them from Taliban looting, according to Azar.
Security forces were not able to salvage the goods from the fire, but those injured in the incident have been hospitalised, he said.
Clearing Taliban from Darzab District
The incident took place in the district's centre, where the Taliban are in control and telecom networks are not in service, said Darzab District Governor Zabihullah Zahid.
"Our assessment of losses to civilians has started, and we will share our findings with the public and with relevant entities," he said.
"The district is being threatened by the Taliban, and the clearance operations by our security forces need to be further intensified so that they can rescue civilians from the atrocities of the Taliban," he added.
"Nearly eight owners' stores have been completely burned, but the storekeepers who were inside were taken by local residents to security forces [for help]," said Mohammad Hanif Rezayee, a spokesman for the 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan National Army.
Some of the storekeepers "sustained severe injuries" and "were taken to health centres by the security forces", he said.
"This heinous act of the terrorists is a big crime, and they have always perpetrated such crimes. It is not their first or last time," Rezayee said.
In addition to burning stores, the Taliban set fire to a number of civilian houses in the district, causing great concern for the winter, he said, without providing further details.
"The National Army and special squads of commandos have jointly undertaken cleaning operations in Darzab District centre, recently clearing the Taliban from the Darya Khana area, where 1,500 people live in a few villages," Rezayee said.
"The Taliban have taken hostages in this district, and becauase they use civilians' houses as shields, it has slowed down the [security forces'] operations," he said.
These commandos of the Ministry of Defence are determined to clear the district of the Taliban, he said.
The Taliban's burning of houses and stores is a brutal reprisal harming innocent civilians and must stop, civil society activists in Jawzjan Province say.
"These acts of the Taliban show violence and a type of reprisal," said Naqibullah Hakimi, one of the civil society activists in Jawzjan.
"As [the Taliban] are worried that the government forces will defeat them, it undermines their morale and pushes them to commit violence," he said. "Today we saw how it manifests itself."
"The Taliban do not want our people to achieve prosperity and growth, and this is why they always try to harm civilians," he said.
"The Taliban don't think of anything else other than violence and crimes against humanity," said Azar, the spokesman for the Jawzjan provincial governor. "They never care for society or the government and never want our country to develop."