The Afghan government has sent a delegation to the northern province of Faryab to ease tensions that gripped the area following the arrest of a powerful militia commander.
The arrest of Nizamuddin Qaisari, who also is a district police chief, sparked violent protests in the provincial capital, Maimana, where at least one protester was killed and eight others were wounded.
The delegation met with Faryab tribal elders, civil society activists, and religious leaders, said Mohammad Hanif Rezaye, a spokesman for the 209th Shaheen Corps, a military district of the Afghan National Army that covers northern Afghanistan.
Following several hours of negotiations, the tribal elders agreed to call off the protests, Rezaye said on July 5.
The spokesman added that the situation in Maimana has returned to normal after two days of protests and that shops and bazaars have reopened.
However, local media report that rallies demanding Qaisari’s release are continuing in Faryab’s Andkhoy district, where protesters blocked a key highway.
The protests have also spread to the provinces of Jawzjan, Badakhshan, and Takhar in the country’s north, Afghan media report.
Qaisari was arrested on July 2 after he allegedly insulted and threatened to kill people during a provincial security meeting. He is also accused of human rights abuses.
Qaisari is close to fellow ethnic Uzbek warlord and Afghan Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum, who fled to Turkey last year after he was accused of being involved in the rape and torture of a political rival. Dostum denies the charges.
Qaisari’s arrest drew angry protests from Dostum’s supporters. Protesters marched on the streets, setting fire to vehicles and parts of the governor's compound.
Police said the demonstrations turned violent on July 4 when protesters tried to force their way into the governor's compound and security forces fired in the air to stop them.
Provincial council chief Mohammad Tahir Rahmani said at least one person was killed and eight wounded in the shooting.
Afghan Defense Ministry spokesman Mohammad Radmanish told RFE/RL on July 5 that Qaisari is in custody in Kabul and “will be questioned over allegations against him.”
Radmanish said authorities also arrested three other militia commanders in Badakhshan, Farah, and Uruzgan provinces.
One of the commanders is accused of selling weapons to the Taliban, while another is suspected of illegally selling gemstones in Badakhshan.
The media office of President Ashraf Ghani said on July 5 that the government will continue the crackdown on militia commanders who undermine the country’s security and stability.
Lal Gul Lal, the head of the Human Rights Organization of Afghanistan, accused Qaisari and the other commanders of human rights abuses against local people in the areas under their control.
“We have multiple complaints from people about these commanders,” Lal told RFE/RL on July 5.
The latest tension in Faryab comes as Afghanistan’s Western-backed government battles the Taliban insurgency and faces growing threats from Islamic State militants who have gained a foothold in the war-torn country.
With reporting by tolonews.com and pajhwok.com