‘Lives Destroyed’: Afghan Civilians Describe Alleged Border Raids | Taliban News
Spera, Khost – Like every other morning for the past week, Peer Jannat, 25, religiously woke up at 2:30 a.m. on April 16 to prepare for Sehri (Suhoor) – a pre-dawn meal that Muslims eat before their fast. daily during the holy month of Ramadan. .
“Just as we were seated we heard drone noises followed by jet noises…a few seconds later we heard an explosion. They [Pakistan military] were bombing us,” Jannat, a resident of Afghan-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, Al Jazeera told Al Jazeera.
At least 47 people died, including 20 children, in airstrikes carried out in three villages in the Spera district of Khost, as well as in the village of Chogam in the Sheltan district of Kunar, according to residents and Taliban officials. Both provinces lie on the 2,700 km (1,677 mile) border with Pakistan.
“In Khost, 12 girls and three boys were killed; in Kunar, three girls and two boys were killed,” said Mohamed Ag Ayoya, an Afghan representative with UNICEF, adding that the children were “killed in their homes while they were sleeping.”
The Taliban blamed Pakistan for the deadly raids, but the Pakistani government has remained silent. Its embassy in the Afghan capital, Kabul, denied that Islamabad was behind the border attacks.
“In our area, they targeted two places and shelled three other places in the neighboring village. Dozens of people were killed, many of them women and children…in some families only one child survived,” Jannat said, frustration evident in his voice.
During what was to be a day of prayer and fasting, Jannat recalls spending the next six to eight hours pulling survivors from the rubble of their homes. “Five houses were destroyed in our neighborhood alone; they were completely razed, burying whole families inside,” he said, adding that other houses, including his own, suffered extensive damage.
“We didn’t have the resources to help our neighbours, to get them out of their destroyed homes. People from nearby villages came to help us,” he said.
Jannat witnessed similar scenes when he went to help families in the nearby villages of Mersaper and Konai. “Apart from human lives, people’s homes, livestock and vehicles were also destroyed,” he said, adding that these also included transport vehicles used by locals for trade.
Many families in Khost depend on agriculture and animal husbandry to earn their living. However, Khost is also an important border port and therefore an important trading province. “For many, their livelihoods are lost,” Jannat said.
At local clinics, doctors said they found it difficult to provide emergency aid due to lack of resources, as the country’s economy nearly collapsed due to the halt in aid and the US sanctions imposed following the Taliban takeover of the country last August.
“We have suffered many casualties in the recent bombardments, and we are exhausted without enough personnel or supplies. We are not in the same position or capacity as last year,” said a doctor at a clinic in Khost who did not wish to be named.
The health sector in Afghanistan, particularly in remote districts, has been a victim of the humanitarian crisis that has unfolded since the return to power of the Taliban. Essential foreign aid to the economy dried up after the West imposed additional sanctions and the country was cut off from international financial institutions.
“Injured people come out after basic treatment because we don’t have enough facilities. In critical cases, we refer them to private hospitals, but not everyone can afford treatment there,” he added.
The Taliban have announced financial support of 20,000 Afghanis (around $230) to affected families, but experts say this is not enough to cover loss of property and livelihoods. Its spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, in a strong statement, warned Islamabad of “bad consequences” if Afghan “territory and freedom” were “disrespected” again.
On Saturday, Taliban authorities summoned a Pakistani envoy to Kabul to protest the strikes.
The Taliban have stressed they want to resolve the issue through “political means”, but a surge in border attacks from Afghanistan since the group took power has sparked tensions between the two neighbours.
The attacks, which Islamabad has not confirmed, sparked protests in the cities of Khost and Kandahar, with security experts calling them an assault on Afghan sovereignty.
“Countries often agree on military operations, including counterinsurgency. However, we don’t know if Pakistan and the Taliban have signed such an agreement,” Said Sabir Ibrahimi, an Afghan analyst and nonresident researcher at New York University’s Center for International Cooperation, told Al Jazeera.
“Pakistan does not appear to have followed any of the international rules and norms and thus violated the sovereignty of Afghanistan,” he said.
Pakistan has led the way in urging the international community to engage with the Taliban-led Afghan government, which is not yet recognized by any country.
But Islamabad has accused the Taliban of harboring rebels as the frequency of attacks has increased.
In a statement issued the day after the airstrikes, the Pakistani Foreign Ministry, without referring to Afghan civilian casualties, said: “Unfortunately, elements of banned terrorist groups in the border region, including the TTP [Tahreek-e-Taliban Pakistan]continued to attack Pakistan’s border security posts, resulting in the martyrdom of several Pakistani soldiers.
The statement also urged the Taliban to secure the Pakistan-Afghan border region and “take tough action against individuals involved in terrorist activities in Pakistan”.
But Afghan leaders have denied providing a safe haven for TTP fighters, many of whom fled to Afghanistan after Pakistani military operations using the porous border between the two countries. The TTP has carried out multiple attacks in Pakistan over the past 15 years.
The people of Khost also insisted that their settlement was not home to any rebels.
“Personally, I don’t know anyone who is part of TTP here. The residents are civilians who fled the violence. In fact, most of the victims were women and children,” Jannat told Al Jazeera.
As a resident of the Afghan-Dubai region of Khost, Jannat was used to border clashes that erupted frequently.
“This place is very close to ground zero (shared border regions), and there are Pakistani army outposts nearby, and in the past there have been shellings that have claimed lives,” he said. he declared.
Residents of the border region hoped the clashes would subside after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan. Instead, tensions have escalated steadily, experts have observed.
Another sticking point is Pakistan’s construction of a border fence that Taliban officials have expressed displeasure over.
“It is not surprising that the Taliban cannot secure Afghanistan’s borders,” Ibrahimi said, pointing out that while Pakistan’s cross-border attacks are nothing new, the Taliban lacks the political and military will to hold the line. responsible Pakistan.
Back in Afghan-Dubai, Jannat lamented the plight of Afghans caught between repeated rounds of conflict as he shared photos of mass graves he had helped dig earlier.
“Most of the people in this area are refugees who fled North Waziristan due to Pakistani military operations there. One of them, injured in this strike, lost all the members of his family. He is alone in a hospital, his whole life destroyed,” added Jannat, her voice heavy with emotion.
Additional reporting by a Khost-based reporter