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."
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]."