Traders seek action against extortionist gunmen
JALALABAD (PAN): A number of traders in eastern Nangarhar province on Monday warned of launching a protest movement if the government did not take action against the gunmen extorting them for money.
They condemned Sunday's gun attack on the factories owned by Haji Farooq, alleging bodyguards of the provincial council head, Jamal Qadir, were involved in the assault. Farooq told Pajhwok Afghan News the gunmen took away goods from his factories.
He was in Kabul when 30 to 40 men armed with heavy and light weapons stormed his factories, the trader said, adding one security guard was injured and two others taken away by the assailants. Machines and a power transformer were destroyed.
The attackers wanted to kidnap his son, Farooq claimed. "The council head is involved in taking extortion money from traders. Anyone refusing to pay extortion will meet the same fate as I did," he continued.
He complained security forces arrived at the scene an hour after the incident that happened in broad daylight. "If the government does not listen to us, we will shut down our factories and migrate to another place," Farooq warned.
Illegal armed groups had an unchallenged sway in the province, insisted Gul Murad, the deputy head of the Nangarhar chapter of the Afghanistan Chamber of Commerce and Industries.
Goldsmiths Abdul Rehman and Liaquat were kidnapped and released last month on payment of ransom, he said. "If the government fails to address our concerns, we will close markets and abandon our businesses."
An official at the governor's house quoted provincial police chief, Brig. Gen. Abdullah Azam, as saying that eight suspects had been arrested in connection with the attack on the factories.
As Qadir could not be reached for comments, a member of the council, Zabihullah Zmarai, said the attack on Farooq's factories was the result of a dispute between the gunmen loyal to the trader and Qadir. He denied Qadir had been involved in the incident.
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