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Thousands of Afghan families flee homes as fighting in Kandahar rages

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
An internally displaced family flees towards the city in Panjwai district of Kandahar province, on July 4, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

More than 22,000 Afghan families have fled their homes in the former Taliban bastion of Kandahar, as fighting between militants and government forces continues on the outskirts of the city.

"The fighting has displaced 22,000 families in the past one month in Kandahar," said Dost Mohammad Daryab, head of the provincial refugee department. "They have all moved from the volatile districts of the city to safer areas."

On Sunday, Lalai Dastageeri, deputy governor of Kandahar province confirmed that fighting continued on the outskirts of the city.

"The negligence of some security forces, especially the police, has made way for the Taliban to come that close," Dastageeri said. "We are now trying to organize our security forces."

Local authorities had set up four camps for the displaced people who are estimated to be about 154,000.

Kandahar resident Hafiz Mohammad Akbar said his house had been taken over by the Taliban after he fled. "They forced us to leave... I am now living with my 20-member family in a compound with no toilet."

Local residents voiced concerns the fighting might increase in days ahead.

"If they really want to fight, they should go to a desert and fight, not destroy the city," said Khan Mohammad, another resident at the camp.

"Even if they win, they can't rule a ghost town."

Since early May, the Taliban's deadly assault has seen the militants capture scores of districts, border crossings and encircle several provincial capitals.

Patricia Grossman, associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch (HRW) said in a statement on Sunday that there were reports the Taliban were committing atrocities against civilians in areas they had captured, including in the town of Spin Boldak near the border with Pakistan they captured earlier this month.

"Taliban leaders have denied responsibility for any abuses, but growing evidence of expulsions, arbitrary detentions, and killings in areas under their control are raising fears among the population," said Grossman.

Afghan media reports said on Thursday that unidentified gunmen killed "over 100 civilians" in Spin Boldak area of Kandahar, along the border with Pakistan.

The Afghan Ministry of Interior confirmed the reports, saying these civilians were killed without any reason.

The Afghan government blamed the Taliban for the murder of civilians in the area.

The Taliban militants are now intensifying their attacks.

Over the past months, Afghan forces have been engaged in fierce clashes with the Taliban to reclaim the lost territories and restore relative calm across the country.

The Afghan government troops plan to concentrate forces around the most critical areas like the capital, Kabul, and other cities, border crossings and vital infrastructure.

Afghan forces detain four militants after Taliban rocket attack on presidential palace

The authorities, meanwhile, announced on Sunday that they captured four Taliban militants including a militant commander for carrying out this week's rocket attack targeting the presidential palace in the capital Kabul.

"A Taliban commander, Momin, along with his three other men, have been arrested. They all belong to the Taliban group," the Interior Ministry spokesman Mirwais Stanikzai said.

He said Momin was a key organizer of the rocket attack, and the group was also involved in other attacks.

On Tuesday, at least three rockets landed near the palace as President Ashraf Ghani and his top officials performed outdoor prayers to mark the Muslim occasion of Eid al-Adha.(the Feast of Sacrifice).

The palace was also attacked last year as hundreds gathered for Ghani's inauguration for a second term as president.

The developments come as US-led foreign forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan after two decades of war and occupation.

Many experts have blamed the US and its NATO allies for the surge in violence in Afghanistan, saying they have failed to stabilize the security situation in the country.

The US and NATO allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 under the pretext that the Taliban militants were harboring al-Qaeda, which had just been blamed for the "9/11 attacks" in the US. The invasion removed the Taliban from power, but it worsened the security situation in the country.

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