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Anti-Taliban Commander Details Taliban Massacre

In recent years Taliban have overrun large parts of rural Afghanistan. Taliban militants in Ahmad Aba district on the outskirts of Gardez, the capital of southeastern Paktia province.

Ghulam Hussein Anwari, a local anti-Taliban commander in Sayad district of northern Sari Pul Province, says the Taliban killed his father and a number of other relatives in Mirzawalang village.

Speaking over the phone, Anwari, an ethnic Hazara, told RFE/RL’s Gandhara website on August 7 that the militants stormed their village from multiple directions early on August 5.

Anwari said the insurgents were able to quickly take their village, home to 300 families, after government reinforcements failed to arrive after nearly two days.

The insurgents killed dozens of villagers, he added. Like Anwari, most of victims were Shi’ite ethnic Hazaras. They included women, children, and the elderly.

“In one place, they shot eight people dead. My father was among them,” Anwari said. “They also killed 11 other members of my extended family, including my cousins and uncles.”

Anwari said 26 local police under his command fought intensely for around 48 hours but had to retreat because their plea for reinforcements fell on deaf ears.

He said he left the village using a police pickup truck and was only able to save his wife and four children. The rest of his immediate family, three teenage daughters and one son, fled on donkeys with the help of his brothers.

Like many others, Anwari left everything behind. He now lives in Sari Pul’s provincial capital, also called Sari Pul, along with surviving members of his extended family.

“We are living in really bad conditions. No one has paid any attention to us. No one has asked if we have a place to sleep or food to eat,” he said. “I blame the government for not providing us with forces and weapons [in the first place].”

Zabihullah Amani, a spokesman for the provincial governor, alleged that the Taliban, along with fighters affiliated with the so-called Islamic State (IS), killed dozens of Mirzawalang’s residents.

“Both Daesh and Taliban attacked Mirzawalang committed crimes against humanity,” he told Gandhara, referring to IS by its local name. “They have jointly killed around 50 civilians. They shot some dead, beheaded others, and mutilated some. A few were thrown down from nearby hilltops.”

Amani claimed the insurgents are now even refusing to hand over the bodies of victims.

Meanwhile, the Taliban have denied their involvement.

“The claims of killing local people in Mirzawalang were hollow propaganda of the enemy,” read an August 7 statement on their website.

In the statement, Taliban spokesman Qari Muhammad Yousuf Ahmadi claimed the bodies of 28 armed Arbakis -- local pro-government forces killed in the fighting -- were given to local elders.

Amani said they have called on Kabul to send additional forces to retake the village but added that, despite pledges, no reinforcements have been deployed to the province yet.

He said around 150 Mirzawalang families are still being held hostage by the insurgents.

“They are captives under Taliban and Daesh fighters. If the central government fails to take action, they will meet the same fate [as the other victims],” he said.