Town's Elders Plead For Help With Taliban

Town's Elders Plead For Help With Taliban
February 26th, 2007  
Team Infidel

Topic: Town's Elders Plead For Help With Taliban

Town's Elders Plead For Help With Taliban
New York Times
February 26, 2007
Pg. 6
By Abdul Waheed Wafa and Carlotta Gall
KABUL, Afghanistan, Feb. 24 — Taliban fighters who seized control of a remote town in southern Afghanistan three weeks ago have started a campaign of arrests and reprisals against tribal elders and townspeople, according to tribal elders. The elders called on NATO forces and the government to move against the insurgents, even if it means bombing the town.
Five elders from the town, Musa Qala, including a member of its tribal council, traveled to Kabul this week to plead for help, expressing bitterness that neither Afghan forces nor NATO troops responded when Taliban forces overran the town on Feb. 2.
In October, in a controversial deal brokered by the town’s 50-member tribal council, both British NATO troops and the Taliban withdrew, and the town enjoyed three months of calm. But the Taliban remained at large in the district, and when NATO forces killed eight of their members in an airstrike last month, their leader seized control of the town, putting elders who did not flee under house arrest and issuing death threats.
Hundreds of families fled, anticipating NATO bombing. NATO airstrikes have continued in the region and have killed several local insurgent leaders, but the elders said that had made the situation harder for the townspeople. “Mullah Ghafoor was killed in an airstrike, and the Taliban started to blame the elders and people for spying for NATO troops,” said the main spokesman for the group that came to Kabul, identifying one insurgent leader. Another leader, Mullah Manan, was killed, and the house where his body was taken was bombed, he said.
“Since Tuesday the Taliban started to arrest people and elders and charge them with helping the government,” he said. Ten people had been arrested, including an elder who had served as police chief, and one man was hurt and may have died, the elders said. The spokesman and an elder interviewed by telephone said that a Taliban leadership council in Quetta, Pakistan, was ordering the arrests and issuing the death threats.
The elders who spoke asked not to be identified for fear of reprisals from the Taliban. Two said they had received death threats from the Taliban and had fled their homes. Other members of the tribal council were in hiding, they said.
One elder said the Taliban had told him by telephone that they were under strong pressure from Pakistan to seize control of the town and now to go further. “One of the Taliban told me on the telephone, ‘Hajji Sahib, I am respecting you like my father, but we are ordered to kill you,’ ” he said.
One landowner from Kajaki, a neighboring district, said the Taliban had executed 13 people from their own ranks and arrested three more.
About 1,000 Taliban are in Musa Qala’s broader district, also called Musa Qala, the elders said. The Taliban have boasted that they control 10,000 fighters in the region.
“We want the government to take back Musa Qala,” said one elder who helped broker the October deal. “People are ready to help NATO and the government, but we don’t know what we are waiting for.”
Asadullah Wafa, the governor of Musa Qala’s province, Helmand, was at the NATO airbase at Kandahar discussing the situation with NATO commanders. He said that he was not aware that the Taliban had begun making arrests but that the government and NATO were poised to act. “We have a comprehensive plan to resolve the issue of Musa Qala, and it will be solved very soon,” he said by telephone.
Abdul Waheed Wafa reported from Kabul, and Carlotta Gall from Lahore, Pakistan. Taimoor Shah contributed reporting from Kandahar, Afghanistan.

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