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Clerics In A Volatile Afghan Province Condemn Taliban Violence

Smoke billows from the scene of a suicide bomb blast that targeted the police headquarters in the northeastern city of Kunduz in February.
Smoke billows from the scene of a suicide bomb blast that targeted the police headquarters in the northeastern city of Kunduz in February.

ASADABAD, Afghanistan -- Taliban violence is coming under mounting criticism from Afghans sick of decades of war, with influential provincial clerics questioning the rational for the insurgency.

Muslim religious leaders, called “Ulema” in the restive Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan, condemned insurgent attacks and questioned the Taliban's motives for perpetrating them at a meeting of dozens of clerics June 17.

A leading Kunar cleric Maulvi Abdul Rahman said only Afghan civilians and security forces are being killed and maimed in insurgent attacks after international forces left the region late last year, ending 13 year of combat operations.

"Killing Afghan Muslims in any way either by a roadside bomb or a suicide bombing is a sin. Anyone aiding such attacks is also committing a major sin," he said. "Why are we being killed when Islamic Shari'a law forbids such killings?"

Maulvi Ziaur Rahman Allahyar, another Kunar cleric, says violence has turned their country into a living hell.

"We have to extinguish this inferno and make our homeland livable again," he said. "When we put out this fire burning our country, only then can we claim to be true Muslims and Afghans."

Cleric Maulvi Najibullah Haqyar agrees. He says that after the departure of foreign forces from Kunar late last year, the insurgents lost all legitimacy to wage war in the province because they cannot claim to be fighting against non-Muslim Western forces.

"After the departure of the U.S. and NATO forces, our police, army, other security forces, and all civilian government departments are exclusively staffed by Afghans," he said. "Why are they being killed now?"

Kunar's deputy governor Qazi Muhammad Nabi Ahmadi says Afghans are sick of violence.

"The decade-long wars in Afghanistan have been imposed by outsiders," he said. "But its victims are Afghans and nobody knows what specific crimes they have committed that sanction their unending slaughter."

Ahmadi said that the ongoing conflict in their country has turned into a "blind war" where the "Afghan belligerents, the country's neighbors, and even the international community are not showing any mercy for Afghan suffering."

Kunar clerics have also adopted a joint resolution calling on the Taliban to renounce violence and join a peace process with the Afghan government.

"The killings of innocent Afghans are inhuman and un-Islamic acts and the perpetrators of such atrocities are the agents of foreigners and the enemies of Afghans," the resolution said. "Such acts clearly violate Islamic teachings."

The clerics declared their support for Afghan forces and called on people to "stand shoulder to shoulder with them to defend their homeland."

Kunar and the neighboring Nuristan province, both known for forested mountains, have been the scene of some of the toughest fighting between Afghan and international forces and an array of Taliban allied militant groups after the demise of the regime in late 2001.

In the 1980s the region was a major battlefield in the Afghan mujahedin's guerrilla war against Soviet occupation. It was one of the first regions to fall into the hands of mujahedin factions, some of whom subscribed to the hardline Salafi Muslim sect.

After 2001, many of Kunar and Nuristan's Salafi factions allied with the Taliban, but Pakistani, Central Asian, and Arab militants also operated in the region.

Abubakar Siddique wrote the story based on Rohullah Anwari reporting from Kunar, Afghanistan.