KANDAHAR (Dispatches) – More than 22,000 Afghan families have fled from their homes to escape fighting in the former Taliban bastion of Kandahar, officials said Sunday, as authorities arrested four suspected militants over this week’s rocket attack on Kabul.
Since early May, violence has surged across several provinces including in Kandahar after the militants launched a sweeping offensive.
The Taliban’s deadly assault has seen the militants capture scores of districts, border crossings and encircle several provincial capitals.
“The fighting has displaced 22,000 families in the past one month in Kandahar,” Dost Mohammad Daryab, head of the provincial refugee department, told AFP.
“They have all moved from the volatile districts of the city to safer areas.”
On Sunday, fighting continued on the outskirts of Kandahar city.
“The negligence of some security forces, especially the police, has made way for the Taliban to come that close,” Lalai Dastageeri, deputy governor of Kandahar province, told AFP.
The Taliban on Saturday pledged to allow an international investigation into human rights abuses, including murders and detentions reportedly carried out by the group in Spin Boldak after it was captured in recent weeks.
“Any entity wishing to go to the area for investigation will be allowed to do so to verify for itself what has happened,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, told Arab News.
“Any institution, be it the Red Cross, the UN or human rights groups (can conduct the investigation). We can facilitate the ground for their trip,” he added.
It follows a report by U.S.-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) that the Taliban had “detained hundreds of residents whom they accuse of association with the government” and “reportedly killed some detainees, including relatives of provincial government officials and members of the police and army” after taking control of Kandahar’s Spin Boldak border crossing with Pakistan on July 8 and the Spin Boldak district on July 16.
“There are grave concerns that Taliban forces in Kandahar may commit further atrocities to retaliate against the government and security forces,” Patricia Gossman, HRW’s associate Asia director, said in the report.
At least 50 Taliban militants were killed or injured in airstrikes by the Afghan government forces in two of the conflict-ridden country’s provinces on Saturday.
Afghanistan’s Defense Ministry said in a statement on Saturday that 33 Taliban militants had been killed and 17 others injured airstrikes in the northern Jowzjan Province and the southern province of Helmand.
The ministry also said three vehicles, six motorcycles, two bunkers and a big cache of weapons and ammunition belonging to the Taliban militants were destroyed.
The Afghan government has imposed a night-time curfew over much of the country as it tries to deter the Taliban from advancing into key urban areas.
Aside from Kabul and two other provinces, no movement will be allowed between 22:00 and 04:00 in the other 31 provinces.