‘Life destroyed’: Afghan civilians describe alleged border raids | Taliban News
Spera, Khost – Like every other morning last week, Peer Jannat, 25, woke up at 2:30 a.m. on April 16 to prepare for Sehri (Suhoor) – the pre-dawn meal that Muslims consume before fasting every day. day in the holy month of Ramadan. .
“Just as we were sitting down, we heard the sound of a drone, then the sound of a jet… a few seconds later we heard an explosion. Surname [Pakistan military] are bombing us,” said Jannat, a resident of Afghanistan-Dubai [the name is a reference to the many families that often send members to the Gulf nation for work] in Khost, an Afghan province located along the border with Pakistan, told Al Jazeera.
According to locals and Taliban officials, at least 47 people died, including 20 children, in airstrikes carried out in three villages of Spera district, Khost, as well as Chogam village in Sheltan district of Kunar. Both provinces lie on a 2,700 km- (1677 mi-) long border with Pakistan.
“In Khost, 12 girls and three boys were killed; Mohamed Ag Ayoya, UNICEF Afghanistan representative, said that in Kunar, three girls and two boys were killed, adding that the children were “killed in the house while they were sleeping”.
The Taliban blamed Pakistan for the deadly airstrikes, but the Pakistani government remained silent. Their embassy in the Afghan capital Kabul denied Islamabad was behind the border attacks.
“In our area, they targeted two places, and bombarded three more places in the neighboring village. Dozens of people have been killed, many of them women and children… in some families only one child survived,” Jannat said, his voice clear with disappointment.
Of the significance of a day of prayer and fasting, Jannat recalls spending the next six to eight hours digging survivors out of the rubble of their homes. “Five homes have been destroyed in just our neighborhood; they were completely flattened, burying entire families inside them,” he said, adding that other homes, including his, suffered extensive damage.
“We don’t have the resources to help our neighbors, to free them from their destroyed homes. People from neighboring villages have come to help us,” he said.
Jannat witnessed a similar scene when he went to help families in the nearby villages of Mersaper and Konai. “Besides human lives, people’s houses, livestock and vehicles have also been destroyed,” he said, adding that they also include means of transport used by locals. used for trade.
Many families in Khost rely on agriculture and livestock to make a living. However, Khost is also an important border port and, therefore, an important commercial province. “For many people, their livelihoods are lost,” says Jannat.
At local clinics, doctors say they are having trouble getting emergency help due to a lack of resources, as the country’s economy almost collapses due to aid shutdowns and US sanctions. demoted after the Taliban took over the country last August.
“We have taken a lot of casualties from the recent bombardment, and we are stretched thin without enough personnel or supplies. We are not in the same position and capacity as last year,” said a doctor from a clinic in Khost.
Afghanistan’s healthcare sector, especially in remote districts, has been the victim of a humanitarian crisis that has unfolded since the Taliban returned to power. A vital source of foreign aid to the economy has dried up after the West imposed additional sanctions and the country was cut off from international financial institutions.
“The injured are discharged from the hospital after basic treatment because we do not have enough facilities. In critical cases, we transfer them to private hospitals, but not everyone can afford to be treated there,” he added.
The Taliban have announced financial assistance of 20,000 afghanis ($230) to affected families, but experts say that is not enough to offset the loss of property and livelihoods. Its spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, in a strong statement warned Islamabad of “bad consequences” if Afghanistan’s “territory and freedoms” were “respected” again.
On Saturday, the Taliban government summoned a Pakistani envoy in Kabul to protest the strikes.
The Taliban have insisted that they want to solve the problem through “political means” but the increase in border attacks originating in Afghanistan since the group came to power has caused tension between the two countries. neighbor.
The attacks, which Islamabad has not confirmed, have sparked protests in the cities of Khost and Kandahar, with security experts calling them an attack on Afghanistan’s sovereignty.
“Countries generally agree on military operations, including counter-insurgency operations. However, we don’t know if Pakistan and the Taliban would sign such an agreement,” said Sabir Ibrahimi, an Afghan analyst and non-resident fellow at New York University’s Center for International Cooperation. , told Al Jazeera.
“Pakistan appears to have not followed any international rules and norms and thus has violated Afghanistan’s sovereignty,” he said.
Pakistan has taken the lead in urging the international community to engage with the Taliban-led Afghan government, which has yet to be recognized by any country.
However, Islamabad accuses the Taliban of sheltering the rebels as the frequency of attacks increases.
In a statement, issued a day after the strike, Pakistan’s foreign ministry, without mentioning Afghan civilian casualties, said, “Unfortunately, elements of terrorist groups are banned in border areas, including the TTP [Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan]continued to attack Pakistan’s border security posts, resulting in a number of Pakistani soldiers being martyred”.
The statement also called on the Taliban to ensure the security of the Pakistan-Afghan border region and “take strict action against individuals involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan”.
But Afghan authorities have denied providing safe haven to TTP fighters, many of whom have fled to Afghanistan following Pakistani military campaigns using the porous border between the two countries. TTP has carried out many attacks in Pakistan over the past 15 years.
Local residents in Khost also insist that their settlement is free of any rebels.
“Personally, I don’t know anyone who is part of TTP here. Residents are civilians fleeing violence. In fact, most of the victims are women and children,” Jannat told Al Jazeera.
As a resident of the Afghanistan-Dubai area of Khost, Jannat is used to frequent border clashes.
“This place is very close to Zero Point (shared border area), and there are Pakistani army outposts, and in the past there have been shellings that claimed lives,” he said.
Locals living in the border area had hoped that clashes would ease after the Taliban took over Afghanistan. Instead, tensions are steadily escalating, experts say.
Another point of contention is Pakistan’s construction of a border fence, which Taliban officials have expressed displeasure with.
“It’s not surprising that the Taliban have been unable to secure Afghanistan’s borders,” said Ibrahimi, pointing out that while cross-border attacks from Pakistan are not new, the Taliban lacks the political will and the military. to hold Pakistan accountable.
Back in Afghanistan-Dubai, Jannat lamented the fate of Afghans caught between repeated cycles of conflict as he shared photos of mass graves he had previously helped dig.
“Most of the people in this area are refugees who fled North Waziristan due to Pakistan’s military operations there. One of them was injured in this strike that left every member of his family missing. He was alone in the hospital, his whole life ruined,” Jannat added, voice heavy with emotion.
Additional reporting by a Khost .-based journalist