KUNDUZ -- At least 15 Taliban members were killed and 22 others were injured in a clash with locals in Dara-e-Sof Bala District, Samangan Province, say security officials.
The Taliban attacked Charmaghzak and Pas Qol villages on April 5, days after locals co-operated with security forces in a military operation that led to the death of five Taliban fighters including Mawlawi Zarif, the local commander of the group.
The Taliban's attempted reprisal faced strong resistance from local public uprising forces, according to Capt. Mohammad Muneer Rahimi, a spokesman for the Samangan Police.
"In the clash between locals and the Taliban, 15 Taliban fighters including Mawlawi Khanjari, the deputy shadow governor for Zari District of Balkh Province, were killed while 22 other Taliban fighters were injured," Rahimi said.
Two residents of Dara-e-Sof Bala were killed, he added.
Security forces arrived in the area afterward and are preventing the Taliban from seizing control, he said.
"The locals did not surrender to the Taliban’s ideology or give in to their demands but instead showed by standing up to them that they will never accept the brutality and crimes of the group," said Raz Mohammad Mawhedi, a member of the Samangan provincial council.
"We appreciate the bravery of locals and call on security forces to protect the public in these areas," he added.
The Taliban is trying to seize control of Dara-e-Sof Bala District for its coal mines and their associated income, say residents of Charmaghzak village.
The Taliban earlier abducted the district governor, Ahmad Ali Hassani, on February 24. They are still holding him.
"The Taliban want our population to buy them arms, provide them food, pay them ushr, zakat and vehicle taxes and to gain control over mines," said Mohammad Zarif Hatami, an elder in Charmaghzak village.
"The Taliban bring horror wherever they go; therefore, no one wants to live under their flag," Hatami added. "Our people will fight against them until their last breath."
"[Afghan forces], the Samangan provincial police department and the provincial department of the National Directorate of Security should send enough supporting forces to these strategic areas to repel any possible Taliban attacks," said Abdul Jalil Barez, a civil society activist.
He raised concerns that the Taliban could again attack Charmaghzak and Pas Qol villages and massacre villagers in revenge.
The killing of Mawlawi Khanjari and the 14 other insurgents by public uprising forces in Dara-e-Sof Bala will improve security in the district to a large extent, said Mohammad Hanif Rezayee, a spokesman for the 209th Shaheen Corps of the Afghan National Army based in Mazar-e-Sharif.
"Our forces are in defensive posture. We have decided to conduct comprehensive clearance operations in vulnerable areas in the coming days," he said.
"Even though all security forces are in defensive posture, the Taliban have taken heavy casualties in Faryab, Balkh, Samangan and Sar-e-Pul provinces as a result of their attacks," he added.