Truck drivers protest extortion on Samangan road
AIBAK (Pajhwok): A number of truck drivers on Thursday staged a protest demonstration alleging that illegal armed men and insurgents extorted money from them on roads in northern Samangan province.
The drivers, who ply the Aibak-Darai Sof highway, claimed illegal gunmen and Taliban militants forced them into paying money in Ziraki and other areas.
One of them, Khalifa Mari, told Pajhwok Afghan News he was stopped on his way back from the Shabashak coalmine yesterday by a group of unknown gunmen and took 1,500 afghanis from him in Pasqol area of Darai Sof district. He said drivers avoided to travel on the highway during night.
Another driver, Essa Khan, said there was no security post on the 100-kilometer road between the coalmine and Aibak city, the capital of Samangan.
He said illegal armed men and Taliban militants were active on the highway and some other areas, creating insecurity.
Eng. Abdul Jabbar Hamidi, Northern Coal Enterprise director, confirmed drivers’ complaints and said two to five drivers were daily forced to pay illegal money by armed men.
He said a security post previously deployed 20 kilometers away on the highway from Aibak city had been removed by the provincial police chief for unknown reasons.
Hamidi said he discussed the insecurity situation on the highway with relevant local officials on Tuesday last and called for protection of the road against rebels and illegal armed men.
Revenue from coal extraction has declined due to worsening security situation on the highway and vehicles would stop travelling on the road if the situation further deteriorated, Hamidi said.
Meanwhile, provincial police chief Col. Mohammad Baqir Massoud confirmed insecurity on the highway and said a group of armed men had recently entered Darai Sof district and was involved in extortion.
He said these illegal armed men posing as Taliban harassed drivers and extorted money from them. He said an operation would be launched soon to drive armed individuals from the highway.
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