Taliban torch tankers in Baghlan after drivers refuse extortion

By Hedayatullah

Fuel tankers burn January 15 in the Sang-e-Suraakh area along the Kabul-Baghlan highway following a Taliban attack. [Hameed Sherzai]

Fuel tankers burn January 15 in the Sang-e-Suraakh area along the Kabul-Baghlan highway following a Taliban attack. [Hameed Sherzai]

KUNDUZ -- Taliban militants in Baghlan Province set fire to six fuel tankers operated by private companies and abducted at least four drivers after they refused to pay the militants money, security officials said last Friday (January 15).

Some sources said six drivers had been abducted during the incident at a temporary Taliban checkpoint.

The tankers had been transporting fuel to private pump stations when they were attacked at a checkpoint on the Kabul-Baghlan highway in the Sang-e-Suraakh area of Doshi District.

"It is unfortunate that the Taliban always perpetrate such crimes," said Doshi District governor Sahibdad Ghafoori.

"Only those who pay taxes to this group can travel on the Kabul-Baghlan highway," he said, adding that if drivers refuse payment, they risk attack.

The Taliban had intended to set fire to another 10 fuel tankers in the area, said Baghlan police spokesman Ahmad Jawed Basharat.

But security forces arrived in the area before they were able to do so, he said.

Harassment and extortion

The Taliban have set up temporary checkpoints in Chashma-e-Shir on the Baghlan–Balkh highway and Jar-e-Khushk on the Baghlan–Kunduz highway, said Shah Wali Yaqin, who drives a truck on the Baghlan-Balkh route.

For the past year, they have been collecting payment from the drivers passing through these checkpoints, he said, in some cases by force.

"The Taliban levy taxes of 5,000 to 30,000 AFN ($65 to $385) on trucks, based on the load of goods they carry," Yaqin said.

"We are fed up with this situation," he said, pointing out that the drivers do not make enough money to afford payments to the Taliban.

"The government needs to hear our voice," he said.

Baghlan traders and residents have called on the Taliban to resolve their differences with the government at the negotiating table in Doha and to bring an end to the suffering in Afghanistan.

"The Taliban should not harass our innocent civilians, especially traders, in order to gain political leverage," said Naqibullah Rahmani, who resides in Pul-i-Khumri, Baghlan Province.

"It can discourage them and push them to discontinue their business activities," he said, accusing the Taliban of seeking to "destroy this country".

'Unacceptable behaviour'

Intra-Afghan peace talks in Qatar between the Taliban and the Afghan government have been under way for more than three months, but the Taliban have continued to pursue violence.

Civil society activists see this as an attempt to gain leverage, saying the Taliban have escalated their violence in order to portray the government as weak and unable to stop their crimes and thereby to gain concessions in Qatar.

"Unfortunately, the Taliban continue to perpetrate more and more crimes so they can impose their illegitimate wishes on the Afghan people and government," said Baghlan civil society activist Muhammad Mashal Shahir.

This behaviour is not acceptable to the people of Afghanistan, said Baghlan Provincial Council member Samiuddin Nazer.

"Setting fire to the tankers inflicts a huge loss on the country's economy and can directly contribute to increasing fuel prices," Nazer said.

Securing Baghlan highways

In an operation last week, government forces destroyed the "extortion checkpoints" of the Taliban in the Chashma-e-Shir and Kilagi areas along the Baghlan highway, said Basharat of the Baghlan police.

The Taliban have been attacking fuel tankers from a distance, a sign of their increasing weakness, he said.

"The Taliban can no longer engage with government forces in direct fighting; therefore, they resort to various other options to spread violence," he said.

"We have mobilised patrols to better secure Baghlan highways and prevent extortions and the burning of fuel tankers," Basharat said.

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Cruelty is committed by all sides against this poor nation. Both Taliban and the government oppress them. Afghan businessmen pay taxes to two governments; that is, the Afghan government and the Taliban Islamic Emirate. For this reason, the price of basic materials is rising day by day, and these are the poor people who sustain losses. The oppressed people of Afghanistan want one government, not two.


choose taliban or government