Civilian houses in Sangin turn into minefields
Clashes between armed insurgents and Afghan forces in Sangin began around five months ago. Local officials say the rebels have been restricted to the Barakzai area alone.
The Sarwan Kala area had been the epicenter of the conflict, but the governor says insurgents have been flushed out of the area. The rebels left Sarwan Kala, planting countless mines in civilian homes.
Tribal elder Fazl Mohammad told Pajhwok Afghan News said civilians did not suffer casualties until the clashes continued. But many, including women and children, died in roadside bombings after the insurgents had left, he said.
He said a national army’s bomb disposal squad recently detected and defused a number of mines inside and around his home.
But his nine-year-old daughter lost her both legs to a mine blast inside the home, an hour later the search team wrapped up its operation.
An Afghan Local Police (ALP) member Akhtar Mohammad said they defused 114 mines over the past four days and still many civilian houses and farm fields remained littered with the invisible devices.
He said eight civilians, including three children and one woman, were killed by landmines in Sangin over the past four days and left many others maimed.
The ALP member said trees and maize crops had enabled Taliban insurgents to launch attacks and flee.
Haji Ghulam Jan, another tribal elder, said many houses had been looted and turned into mine fields as a result of the conflict, which also caused damages to standing crops.
He said the government was required to send technical teams for detecting and defusing landmines in order to protect locals from the looming threat.
Governor Mohammad Naeem told a gathering in a mosque in Bostan area of Sarwan Kala that residents should not enter their homes until cleared of landmines.
He said families, whose houses had been looted by insurgents, would be assisted after a survey. He also said aid giving agencies were expected to initiate development schemes in the Sarwan Kala area in order provide residents with jobs.
Helmand police chief Brig. Gen. Mohammad Hakim Angar, who has been in Sangin over the past two weeks, said the sway of insurgents had been restricted to a specific area, where they remained under pressure.
The 215th Maiwand Military Corps commander, Gen. Syed Malook, said standing crops hindered their efforts to spot enemy activity. Otherwise, he said, the Taliban would not have been able to put up resistance.
He said the insurgents had been inflicted heavy casualties so far and once crops were harvested, the operation would be extended to other nearby districts.
Sarwan Kala is 28 kilometres north of Sangin district centre. Government officials and reporters travelled by road this week to the area, which was considered no go area until two weeks ago.
However, the Taliban said they continued to hold sway in even more parts of Sangin.
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