2015-07-09 Afghanistan||Balkh becomes northern haven for Afghan refugees
[RFE/RL] Tens of thousands of Afghans have fled their homes in northern Afghanistan in the face of a fierce offensive by the Taliban. Many have sought refuge in Balkh Province, the last oasis of relative peace in the region.|
Governor Atta Mohammad Noor, a powerful former warlord, has run the province with an iron fist for the past 12 years, making the it one of the most stable and prosperous in the country. Balkh's stability has also been a major focus of NATO forces, due to its strategic location.
Migration officials estimate the number of internally displaced persons in Balkh to be as high as 20,000.
Taliban fighters conducted a major spring offensive in northern Afghanistan, which had been relatively stable compared with the south and east of the country. But now, battles are raging across the area.
Even Balkh has not been shielded from the increasing violence.
In several districts, the Taliban is waging war with Afghan soldiers and pro-government militias, causing residents to flee to Mazar-e Sharif and its surrounding areas.
Agha Jan, an elderly farmer from Chimtal district, said, "So many of our people were killed and taken. We had to leave our area. Eighteen people were killed by the Taliban in our village alone."
Jan says they were not only being targeted by the Taliban, but were also being preyed upon by pro-government militias. He said, "During the day, the Taliban would beat us up and ransack our homes. During the night, it was the militias' turn."
|Posted by ryuge 2015-07-09 00:00||
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