KAKARAN VILLAGE - Dozens of Afghan villagers have taken up arms against the Taliban in one of their key southern heartlands, the latest in a series of such uprisings, villagers and officials say.
Analysts caution that the movements could be attempts by local militia leaders to reassert their authority ahead of the 2014 withdrawal of Nato troops, or could be orchestrated as part of a government strategy.
The uprising in Kandahar province, the birthplace of the militants, was launched by a tribal elder at the weekend after the militia threatened to kill one of his sons for joining a US-backed community police force.
Haji Abdul Udood, a tribal chief in the province’s troubled Panjwayi district, said the villagers were fed up with Taliban “atrocities”, including roadside bombings that kill more civilians than troops.
More than 60 youths had joined the movement in just two days, Udood told AFP in Kakaran village, about 10 kilometres (six miles) west of Kandahar city.
In their first encounter with the Taliban on Sunday night - in an attack backed by police - three Taliban were killed and dozens were forced to flee to the mountains, Udood and a police official said. General Abdul Raziq, the provincial police chief in Kandahar, said he had provided the villagers with arms and ammunition. “Right now we are providing training to the villagers. We have provided guns and bullets and we are supporting this,” Raziq told AFP.
He said that the youths taking part in the uprising would be recruited to the Afghan Local Police (ALP), a US-sponsored community police force assigned to fight the Taliban in remote villages. The police chief said the move was effective in the battle against the Taliban and that it could deal the militants with a major blow.
Udood said he started the uprising after the Taliban tried to kill one of his sons, accusing him of joining the ALP.
“I and my eight sons took up our guns and told the Taliban we will fight you. Three other villagers who had lost members of their family to Taliban bombings joined us, more people joined us,” he added.
There were similar uprisings last year in the provinces of Logar and Ghazni south of Kabul and in Laghman in the east, against the Taliban who ruled Afghanistan for five years before being ousted in a US-led invasion in 2001.
In Panjwayi, as in the other uprisings, the villagers said they were fed up with Taliban activities. “In the past few months alone there have been 60 Taliban mine explosions in our village. All have hit civilians,” said one villager in Kakaran, refusing to give his name for fear of reprisals.
“We don’t want this. The Taliban are killing us, not the military forces, so now have taken up arms and either will kill them or they have to leave our village,” the 35-year-old man told AFP.
Allah Dad, one of the first to join Udood and his sons in the anti-Taliban uprising said he was tired of Taliban bombings.
“I was going to my garden one day. The Taliban were planting a mine right on my garden’s entrance. I told him my garden and could kill me. They cursed me and slapped me. I was tired of them. Now I have got gun, I will either kill them or kick them out of my village.”