July 23, 2017
Afghan security forces have launched a major search operation for some 30 villagers still missing two days after a mass kidnapping blamed on the Taliban militants in the country’s troubled south.
Zia Durrani, a police spokesman in the southern province of Kandahar, said on Sunday that about 30 people were released on July 23 but around 30 others were still missing.
Some 70 people were abducted on Friday from their village near a main road in the militancy-riddled region. At least seven of them were found dead the following day alongside the highway from the city of Kandahar to Tarinkot in Uruzgan province.
It remained unclear why the villagers were seized. Some officials, however, suggested that Taliban had abducted or killed them for suspected cooperation with the government in Kabul.
In recent weeks, Taliban have intensified a campaign of kidnapping and killing civilians across various regions of the war-ravaged country.
Highways in Afghanistan passing through militancy-prone areas have become exceedingly dangerous, with Taliban and other armed groups frequently kidnapping or killing travelers.
Afghans flee villages in Kandahar
On Sunday, dozens of families from the affected area who arrived in Kandahar city blamed the militants for forcing them out of their villages.
“The Taliban came to our villages at midnight and accused us of supporting the government, they warned us to either leave or they will burn us and our houses,” AFP quoted a woman who was among the displaced.
In a statement released on Sunday, Taliban denied involvement, while confirming they had attacked police checkpoints in the troubled region.
“Our mujahideen killed a number of local police and pro-government militias there, also capturing 17 suspects who were later released after interrogation. We have not killed or kidnapped any civilians,” the statement said.
Taliban overruns two districts
Elsewhere in the war-ravaged country, Taliban overran two district centers in the northern province of Faryab and the central province of Ghor.
According to provincial police spokesman Abdul Karim Yourish, in Faryab the militants overran Kohistan district center after an overnight attack triggered hours of fierce fighting. Yourish said Afghan government forces had retreated two kilometers from the area.
Meanwhile, provincial governor spokesman Abdul Hai Khatibi in Ghor confirmed that militants had seized Taywara district early Sunday after days of clashes with Afghan troops. The Taliban militants reportedly torched the district hospital and killed a number of doctors and patients there.
Insecurity has gripped Afghanistan since 2001, when the United States and its allies invaded the country as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. Many parts of the country remain plagued by militancy despite the presence of foreign troops.