‘Taliban’s Zabul infighting killed and wounded in hundreds’
KABUL (Pajhwok): Hundreds of Taliban militants were either killed or wounded during last month’s clashes between rival factions in southern Zabul province, officials and Taliban sources said on Saturday.
The clashes between supporters of Taliban’s supreme leader Mullah Akhtar Mansour and a top leader of a dissident group Mullah Mansoor Dadullah backed by Uzbek fighters broke out in early November afer Dadullah refused to pledge allegiance to Mansour.
Mansour became supreme leader of the insurgency after the founder and long time supremo Mullah Mohammad Omar’s death was announced in July this year. Dadullah was among several senior Taliban leaders who refused to pledge allegiance to Mansour.
At the time, Zabul’s deputy police chief Brig. Ghulam Jilani Farahi had told Pajhwok Afghan News the clashes first erupted in Arghandab district and later spread to Khak-i-Afghan and Dai Chopan districts. He had said 110 people were killed and as many wounded, with Dadullah and Islamic State fighters suffering the most casualties.
Arghandab district chief Haji Momand Nasratyar said civilians had suffered no casualties during the clashes in Arghandab, but Taliban militants hanged a prayer leader who had issued a fitwa in support of the Daesh group.
He said a number of gunmen linked to Dadullah and Uzbek fighters had been killed in Khak-i-Afghan district and some had been imprisoned, but he gave no exact figures. The official said Taliban militants were still searching for rival militants and they used to arrest and investigate suspects.
He said Taliban had obtained lists of those who had supported Dadullah or Uzbek fighters and many Uzbeks had been killed during the clashes.
Zabul provincial council secretary Asadullah Kakar said Taliban had killed during and after the clashes a number of residents who had connections either with Dadullah or Uzbeks. He said a number of people were in custody of Taliban and many had fled to Shah Joy, Qalat and other areas.
A tribal elder in Khak-i-Afghan district, who wished not to be named, said Taliban militants after capturing alive Mullah Mansoor Dadullah, Mullah Abdullah Kakar and an Uzbek commander Akram killed them all along with dozens of supporters.
He said an Uzbek woman carried out a suicide attack inside her home, killing a number of women and children.
A source close to the Taliban said the number of people killed and wounded including women and children was in hundreds.
Pajhwok Afghan News has obtained a recording of a telephonic conversation between two Taliban militants. One Talib is informing the other about the situation in Khak-i-Afghan district. “They killed all the friends in Khak-i-Afghan even minor children and women. All the guests were eliminated and houses of Mullah Dadullah’s supporters were plundered.”
A Taliban source in Zabul told Pajhwok Afghan News that well-trained fighters and snipers were called in from other areas to Zabul for killing Mullah Dadullah and his Uzbek supporters who had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State.
He said other Taliban fighters, who brought with them a fitwa from a cleric in Pakistan’s Quetta branding the rivals as traitors, also launched their operations against Dadullah and his supporters.
“The Taliban assembled 3000 fighters laced with weapons Iran had given to them against Daesh militants and they launched operations in 75 villages of the three districts. They killed hundreds of opponents and imprisoned 1500,” the Taliban source said.
He said the dead included Mullah Dadullah, his elder brother Haji Lala and some other family members.
Sources in Zabul province said the Taliban pardoned only the brother of Tahir Yuldashev, the leader of the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan, and another 15 persons and killed the rest they had captured.
But the Taliban rejected these claims and said a few casualties had taken place during the clashes. Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, a Taliban spokesman, said 30 people had been killed and as many wounded during the clashes.
“A very few casualties were inflicted on Uzbeks and other miscreants, most of them surrendered. The surrendering persons have their families with them and all have been moved to a safe place. They live in freedom, they are only disarmed and their attempt to create problems has been prevented.”
Ahmadi said claims made by the Kabul administration and others were propaganda and should not be trusted.
He said not many families lived in the said areas where a total of 98 Uzbek fighters had been living with their 30 families who were not harmed.
Previously in a statement, the Taliban had said the clashes lasted 24 hours. “The clashes were against those who called themselves Daesh affiliates who accused the Taliban of revolt, called them puppets and made other bad allegations. They called mujahideen as apostates. The same group had revolted against the Taliban in Nangarhar province,” the statement had said.
But in a statement issued by Mullah Mansoor Dadullah’s spokesman, Qari Hamza, had said Mullah Akhtar Mansour’s group entered an alliance with a local commander Habib Bashi to initiate attacks against them.
He had said Habib Bashi dispatched his forces to Khak-i-Afghan through Jaghori district and they joined Akhtar Mansour’s group in attacks on them in Khak-i-Afghan and Arghandab districts.
Hamza had claimed a number of their supporters, including women and children, were killed and the Taliban and their leaders were inflicted heavy casualties in a suicide attack in retaliation.
Qari Hamza in a separate statement had claimed a suicide bomber from their side targeted the Taliban’s governor for Zabul and a military commander, killing and wounded dozens, a claim rejected by Qari Yousaf Ahmadi.
In their investigation report, the Taliban said Uzbek Daesh fighters who arrived from Pakistan Waziristan region in disguise of refugees started anti-Taliban activities and joined hands with Mansoor Dadullah.
It said the Taliban sent a delegation, but it returned unsuccessful and again a delegation of religious scholars was sent, but the Uzbeks did not listen to them. The report also mentioned some incidents of atrocities Mullah Dadullah group meted out to local residents.
The report said: “When there was no option left to resolve the issue with Daesh in a peaceful way, still the Taliban did not determine the time of operations. But in the meantime, they plotted and killed some Taliban fighters but failed to kill the leaders. This conspiracy led to the start of the clashes.”
But Dadullah’s spokesman Qari Hamza had rejected the Taliban report as propaganda. “The plot of the conflict was orchestrated in Iran. Because without Iran’s backing, Mullah Akhtar Mansour was not able fight against Dadullah and the Uzbeks.”
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