Taliban encircle innocent residents of Jawand District with land mines

By Omar

The Taliban militants have surrounded Jawand District in northern Province of Badghis with mines, preventing residents from leaving and blocking food and medical supplies from reaching those in need, local officials and residents confirm. [Shamal Mashal]

HERAT -- The Taliban have barricaded residents of Jawand District, Badghis Province, for nearly a year and a half by planting land mines along the roads that surround the district.

The treacherous roads prevent residents from leaving Jawand District and block essential goods such as food, medicine and clothing from reaching the district's centre, officials and residents say.

To help alleviate this hardship, Afghan security forces have been able to deliver a small amount of food and medical supplies by helicopter, but it is not enough for residents to live normal lives.

Local authorities in Badghis Province are determined to free the residents of the district from the Taliban's brutality and economic siege, said Badghis Governor Abdul Ghafoor Malakzai November 8.

Women can be seen using animals for transportation in Jawand District, Badghis Province, November 8. [Shamal Mashal]

Women can be seen using animals for transportation in Jawand District, Badghis Province, November 8. [Shamal Mashal]

In this photograph taken November 8, residents of Jawand District, Badghis Province, demand the Taliban end the siege of their district. [Shamal Mashal]

In this photograph taken November 8, residents of Jawand District, Badghis Province, demand the Taliban end the siege of their district. [Shamal Mashal]

Residents of Jawand District support the Afghan government and for that reason, the Taliban were unable to gain control through armed attacks, he said.

Instead, the militants have taken revenge on the civilian population by surrounding the district with mines and imposing harsh economic restrictions on their daily life.

"Fresh forces have reached Jawand District, and even more forces will be deployed, and we will break the Taliban's siege of the district," Malakzai said.

Trapped in the district

"The Taliban have besieged us from four sides," said Jalaluddin, a resident of Jawand District. "They have planted mines on all the roads, and they don't allow us to get out of Jawand."

He and his family have not been able to leave the district for a year and a half, said Jalaluddin.

"We have been grappling with this huge problem," he said. "We don't have a [safe] road, we can't go anywhere and we even can't take our patients to hospital."

"The Taliban ask us to break our ties with the government and stop supporting it," he said.

But abandoning the Afghan government is not a viable option for district residents.

"There is nothing wrong with the government as it protects the public," said Ramadan Haidari, another resident of the district. "The security forces are fighting a tough war in their trenches."

"The Taliban have blocked all the routes" in and out of the district, bringing economic activity to a standstill, he said.

Before the Taliban's siege of the areas surrounding Jawand District, there were about 300 stores in Jawand bazaar in the centre of the district, Haidari said. Now the bazaar is deserted.

In addition to scattering mines along the roads, the Taliban have blocked some roads with walls so that no one can even attempt to leave, he said.

"In some cases, locals travelled on certain roads secretly and brought food items to Jawand District centre, but the Taliban planted mines even on those roads as they patrol them," he said.

"The roads are blocked and our children are hungry as we don't have anything to eat," said Allah Dad, another resident of Jawand District. "We don't have flour and cooking oil at home, and we can't even find them in Jawand bazaar."

'Torturing the innocent'

"The situation in Jawand District is very disappointing," said Abdul Basir Osmani, a representative of Badghis Province in the Wolesi Jirga.

"The Taliban are responsible for the situation as they have planted mines along these routes, and they have inflicted hunger on women and children, which is against religious and human rights values," he said.

"We call on the Afghan government, the United Nations and the international community to take action against this brutality of the Taliban," Osmani said. "The Taliban should know that they cannot achieve anything by torturing the innocent."

Because of the number of mines the Taliban planted along the roads, clearing them will take time, said Col. Hasibullah Akhundzada, commander of the 3rd Brigade of the Afghan National Army.

"The Taliban have buried small and large mines along the road and under bridges so that the security forces and civilians cannot travel to Jawand District by land," he said.

"The Taliban's mines are very destructive, and if civilians travel on these routes, the mines will explode and kill them," said Abdullah Afzali, deputy chair of the Badghis Provincial Council. "We have asked civilians not to travel on these roads until [the mines] are cleared."

"Residents of Jawand have many problems," he said. "If the hunger in Jawand lingers, it will cause a human disaster for which the Taliban will be responsible."

Government providing relief

Provincial authorities are working to provide assistance and relief to Jawand District residents, while security forces are implementing a plan to clear the mines from surrounding roads.

Governor Malakzai and a team of local and security authorities flew to the district centre on November 8, circumventing the Taliban's land barricade.

Workers have gathered essential food items and medical supplies in Qala-e-Naw, Badghis Province, and will send them to the district as soon as possible, he said.

"The Afghan government and relief agencies have arranged these packages of food for the residents of Jawand District, but as the roads are filled with land mines, it will take some time to transport these items," he said.

"The Department of Disaster Management and the Emergency Committee of Badghis have taken the responsibility to distribute the food items and medical supplies to the residents of Jawand District," Malakzai said. "They are trying to send the supplies to the residents as soon as possible."

Col. Akhundzada thanked locals for their continued support. Security forces will soon begin operations to clear the mines and defeat the Taliban in the district, he said.

"Residents of Jawand bravely tolerated the tough times and hunger and stood against the Taliban," he said. "They have always been beside the security forces as they did not allow the Taliban to enter Jawand District centre."

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The Taliban do not want Afghan people to think for themselves.