• Sunday, Oct 24, 2021
  • Last Update : 10:51 pm

Afghan Shia militia battles Taliban, raising sectarian fears

  • Published at 07:04 pm November 4th, 2018
AFGHANISTAN-RUSSIA-TALIBAN
An Afghan firefighter sprays water on burning shops after a Taliban attack in Ghazni city, Afghanistan August 14, 2018 Reuters

Afghan and Western security officials, fearing the kind of sectarian violence that has devastated Iraq, have been deeply concerned that Hazaras who fought in Iranian-backed militias in Syria could hit Sunni targets

A week of fighting between Taliban militants and fighters loyal to a commander from the mainly Shia Hazara minority has heightened fears of a dangerous new phase of sectarian violence in Afghanistan.

The clashes in the central province of Uruzgan, which have killed at least 21 people, have highlighted concerns that Hazaras, members of a mainly Shia Persian-speaking minority targeted by Islamic State attacks over recent years, may take up arms in frustration at a lack of action by the government.

While the Taliban, made up mainly of ethnic Pashtun Sunni Muslims, has not explicitly targeted Hazaras in the past, officials fear the violence could escalate into an ethnic battle.

"The fighting is very intense and is now becoming an issue of ethnic violence between Hazara and Pashtun," said Amir Mohammad Barekzai, the provincial council chief. "The government must arrange a truce between them or there will be a massacre."

Sectarian violence had until recent years been relatively uncommon in Afghanistan but suicide bombings at Shia mosques and cultural centres by Islamic State as well as attacks on Hazaras travelling on provincial highways have fuelled growing anger. Many Hazaras blame Sunni Pashtuns for the attacks.

Afghan and Western security officials, fearing the kind of sectarian violence that has devastated Iraq, have been deeply concerned that Hazaras who fought in Iranian-backed militias in Syria could hit Sunni targets.

Tax row sparks violence

The recent violence started when Taliban fighters attacked a remote cluster of Hazara villages in Uruzgan province after they refused to pay tax to the insurgents, provincial officials said.

The Hazara commander, Abdul Hakim Shujaee, a former leader in the US-funded Afghan Local Police, has been accused of serious human rights abuses and faces an arrest order from the central government, which has struggled to impose its authority on remote parts of the country.

He commands hundreds of Hazara fighters and remains free because of his connections with powerful political figures in Kabul, local officials say.

Uruzgan, squeezed between the Taliban heartlands of Kandahar and Helmand and the Hazara-dominated province of Daikondi, is home to both Pashtuns and Hazara families and the two groups have long had an uneasy co-existence.

Asadullah Sayed, the governor of Uruzgan, said fighting broke out between two armed groups in three villages of Khas Uruzgan district last week and government forces have been deployed to end the conflict.

He put the number of dead at 21 but a government security official said 43 people had been killed so far on both sides, many more wounded and some 300 families have fled the area.

The Taliban normally collect taxes from local residents in areas under their control to fund their insurgency but Hazara families defied them, setting off a fierce gun battle, he said.

The case echoes a standoff last month in central Ghor province involving a prominent Hazara commander called Alipur, known as "Commander Sword," seen by supporters as a kind of Robin Hood figure but denounced by the government as a bandit.

58
Facebook 56
blogger sharing button blogger
buffer sharing button buffer
diaspora sharing button diaspora
digg sharing button digg
douban sharing button douban
email sharing button email
evernote sharing button evernote
flipboard sharing button flipboard
pocket sharing button getpocket
github sharing button github
gmail sharing button gmail
googlebookmarks sharing button googlebookmarks
hackernews sharing button hackernews
instapaper sharing button instapaper
line sharing button line
linkedin sharing button linkedin
livejournal sharing button livejournal
mailru sharing button mailru
medium sharing button medium
meneame sharing button meneame
messenger sharing button messenger
odnoklassniki sharing button odnoklassniki
pinterest sharing button pinterest
print sharing button print
qzone sharing button qzone
reddit sharing button reddit
refind sharing button refind
renren sharing button renren
skype sharing button skype
snapchat sharing button snapchat
surfingbird sharing button surfingbird
telegram sharing button telegram
tumblr sharing button tumblr
twitter sharing button twitter
vk sharing button vk
wechat sharing button wechat
weibo sharing button weibo
whatsapp sharing button whatsapp
wordpress sharing button wordpress
xing sharing button xing
yahoomail sharing button yahoomail