KUNDUZ -- Fed up with the Taliban's increasing incursions into the provincial capital of Pul-i-Khumri and other districts, hundreds of residents of Baghlan province have taken up arms, vowing to fight the militants alongside the security forces.
"Residents of different corners of Baghlan have been mobilised and have declared a public uprising against the enemy of the people of Afghanistan," said Ahmad Jawed Basharat, spokesperson for Baghlan police, Monday (May 10).
"It was a popular movement that rose against the crimes of the Taliban," he said. "They pledged to stand next to the security forces in the fight against the group."
A video posted on social media last Friday shows Taliban in Baghlan-e-Markazi district of Baghlan province attacking security forces from civilians' houses, prompting the public uprising.
'Ready to defend Afghanistan'
Last Saturday, about 200 residents of Nahrin, Burka, Baghlan-e-Markazi, Khenjan, Doshi and Khost-wa-Fering gathered to announce the uprising.
Afghans need to oust the Taliban and not allow them to determine the people's fate, they said.
"We saw the Taliban attack our security forces from civilian homes and harm our families, so we became prepared to take up arms," said Faraidoon, commander of the public uprising group, who goes by one name.
"The Taliban kill our innocent civilians daily," he said. "We can no longer tolerate such injustice."
"Our security forces sacrifice their lives on the battlefield," he said. "We are also ready to defend our land and people and prevent any kind of vicious Taliban agenda."
The group will stand beside the security forces with all its power, said Mir Haidar, a resident of Khost-wa-Fering district and a member of the public uprising.
"A majority of the public uprising members are deployed in defensive posts in Baghlan," he said. "We are not afraid of the enemy. We will not spare even the last drop of our blood from our people and land."
"We have come together here today to defend our honour and government," said Dost Mohammad, a member of the public uprising.
"The Taliban will take their wish of destroying this [political] system to their grave," he said.
"Members of the public uprising include Tajiks, Uzbeks, Pashtuns and Hazaras who showed their unity and solidarity in standing up to the Taliban," said Ezatullah Amarkhail, a tribal elder in Baghlan province.
"We have been sacrificing for the past 40 years," he said. "If Taliban militants are Afghans and Muslims, they must say no to war and violence and should no longer sacrifice our defenceless people."
"The Taliban's only pretext was the presence of foreigners," he said. "Why do they fight now?"
"If the Taliban do not accept peace or ceasefire, then we must defend our country against them," said Abdullah Bahaduri, a resident of Pul-i-Khumri city.
Afghans sacrificed greatly for peace. Now is the time for parties involved in the conflict to compromise and stop fighting over power, he said.
Deadly attacks on Taliban
Over the past week (May 5-12), the Taliban intensified attacks on Pul-i-Khumri city and Nahrin, Burka, Dahna-i-Ghori and Baghlan-e-Markazi districts, but local authorities say security forces repulsed the attacks.
Joint forces from the Afghan National Army (ANA), National Police and National Directorate of Security launched Operation Pamir 322 and cleared most areas of Taliban forces, said Gen. Abbas Tawakuli, deputy commander of the 209th Shaheen Corps based in Mazar-e-Sharif, at a news conference with Baghlan provincial officials Monday.
The ANA conducted the operation very carefully to avoid harming civilians, as the Taliban were hiding in civilians' houses, he said.
Some prominent Taliban commanders were among those killed by Afghan forces, he said.
More than 130 Taliban militants have been killed or injured in the province over the past week, Baghlan Governor Mohammad Akbar Barakzai said at the Monday news conference.
"Our brave forces in co-operation with public uprising forces were able to deliver deadly blows to the enemy," he said. "Reports indicate that more than 60 Taliban fighters have been killed or injured in Baghlan-e-Markazi, and over 70 of them have been killed or injured in Nahrin district."
The Taliban's morale is weakened and they do lack the ability to fight Afghan security forces, he added.
"The Taliban wanted to capture Dahna-e-Ghori district and the Dand-e-Ghori area of the provincial capital, but fortunately they were confronted with strong resistance by our security forces and suffered unprecedented casualties," Lt. Gen. Habibullah Hesari, director-general of military operations at the Ministry of Defence, said at the press conference.
"With with all our power, we did not allow them to take even one metre of those areas," he said. "On the contrary, they suffered unprecedented casualties, which is a great lesson for them."