Taliban set fire to telecom towers in Darzab District

By Hedayatullah

Cell phone towers can be seen in this photo taken last January 30 in Zindajan District, Herat Province. [Omar]

Cell phone towers can be seen in this photo taken last January 30 in Zindajan District, Herat Province. [Omar]

KUNDUZ -- The Taliban burned down three telecom towers in Darzab District in Jawzjan Province and oppressed civilians after recently capturing the area, authorities said.

The Taliban claimed on December 31 that they had captured the district centre of Darzab.

"After the Taliban set fire to the towers of the telecom carriers, they looted all their technical equipment," said Abdul Marouf Azar, spokesman for the governor of Jawzjan Province, adding that thousands of district residents have been deprived of telecom services "because of this crime by the Taliban".

The destruction of the towers is not only affecting residents of Darzab District but also residents of Qush Tepa District, Azar said.

"The Taliban have always tried to spread fear and violence, and they showed by setting fire to these towers that they don't want us to prosper," he added.

Taliban fighters intended to burn down the civilian hospital in the district but were prevented from doing so by elders of the district, said Azar.

When weather allows, troops will clear the district of anti-government elements, he said.

"Our security forces have changed their location from the Antan checkpoint in Darzab District to another location," said Mohammad Hanif Rezayee, a spokesman for the 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan National Army. "When the weather improves, we'll recapture the areas that have fallen [to the enemy]."

Atrocities against civilians

In addition to destroying the cell towers, the militants waged a violent campaign against civilians, said Darzab District residents.

"The Taliban oppressed civilians every day," said Irfanullah Asadyar, one of the displaced persons from Darzab District, who now lives in Sheberghan, the provincial capital.

"They beat up civilians, imprisoned them without any reason and forced them to provide food for them," he said.

"Due to fear of war and violence, my children and I escaped from our district at night, and we now stay at our relatives' place in Sheberghan," he added.

"Crimes that ISIS [the "Islamic State of Iraq and Syria"] and the Taliban perpetrated in the past two years haven't taken place in any other province," the 40-year-old said. "We have suffered greatly. Our people have suffered casualties. The war is enough. The government should bring calm to our district."

The Taliban have committed atrocities against civilians and have forced underaged girls to marry them, confirmed Azar.

In addition, in the last six months, the Taliban have committed other crimes such as torching shops and killing civilians, Azar said.

Displaced in middle of winter

A large number of civilians have been displaced to Sheberghan and other districts after the Taliban seized areas in Darzab and Qush Tepa districts.

Darzab District, which has a population of about 67,000, saw some 13,000 residents displaced, according to Jawzjan provincial council member Abdul Hai Hayat.

"These families have been displaced from their homes in the cold of winter, and they are in dire need of aid," he said.

"Currently, residents of the district have lost their [telecom] connectivity to other areas," he said. "They have to climb up to higher points and hilltops to be able to establish a connection."

Some of the families who still live in Darzab District grapple with a lack of food, water and electricity, he said, emphasising that the local government needs to provide for their needs.

After key areas of the district fell to the Taliban, district government offices moved to Sheberghan so that they can continue to deliver public services, said Zabihullah Zahid, governor of Darzab District.

"Civil servants of Darzab District process official business for Darzab residents at the Jawzjan provincial governor's office," he said.

"A survey to identify displaced families from Darzab District is under way," he added. "Local government and partner relief agencies will deliver necessary aid [to these families]."

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Destruction of electricity pillars, torching cell phone towers and closing down telecom services at night by Taliban is a heinous act of the group, because in this 21th century a human cannot live without electricity, telephone and internet. So, this act of Taliban makes people face various problems. Imagine! if a member of a family is sick and dies at night, how can the family inform its relatives about the death of their beloved one? They have to wait till the morning so that the telecom services become operational and they inform their relatives. In some regions the mobile networks are inactive during the day either. By doing so, Taliban want to keep the people in dark so that they impose their wills on the civilians, but now people have become clever. They will never submit to the ominous wills of the Taliban. So, the Taliban will lose their sympathizers and advocates by doing such things. People even in the villages will not support Taliban. Now most of the relatives of Taliban hate the group. If Taliban are Muslims and Afghans, they should not hurt the civilians, and they should keep public properties safe and let the people have electricity, internet and a human life.