Afghan villagers hang Taliban - officials

2014-09-27 21:16

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Kabul - Afghan villagers hanged four Taliban fighters from a tree after hundreds of militants launched a major offensive, officials said on Saturday, as security forces fought to recapture ground in the eastern province of Ghazni.

About 100 police, soldiers and civilians have been killed in clashes over the past week, with the Taliban beheading 12 of the victims, according provincial officials.

This summer's fighting has seen worsening violence, with the Taliban pushing forward in several provinces as US-led Nato troops withdraw and the government in Kabul deadlocked for months over disputed election results.

"In one village, local people hanged four fighters [from] a tree after capturing them as the army and soldiers made advances," Ghazni deputy governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi told AFP.

"The Taliban have holed up in homes and are using locals as human shields. About 100 fighters are still in the main bazaar, but we hope to break their frontline soon."

Nato's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) said it believed provincial officials were exaggerating the scale of the offensive, probably to encourage extra reinforcements to be sent in the remote region.

"It is the officials in western Ghazni who normally hugely overstate what is happening," ISAF deputy commander General Carsten Jacobson told reporters.

"The picture that we have is by far not as grim [as local officials say]."

Taliban test

Jacobson said ISAF was assisting Afghan forces with reconnaissance, and he rejected reports that some militants in Ghazni were aligned to the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) group active in Syria and Iraq.

"We haven't seen so far any credible proof - and we are watching that, of course, very carefully - of real manifestation of ISIS here in Afghanistan," he said.

The attacks in the last week have focused on Ajristan district in Ghazni province, after recent Taliban offensives in Kandahar, Helmand and Logar.

Sediq Sediqqi, interior ministry spokesperson, told AFP: "We have sent special forces, police and army as part of reinforcements to the district, and launched operations against the Taliban.

"The villages will be cleared of the insurgents very soon."

Officials said there was no update on Friday's toll of 80 to 100 people killed over the past week.

The Taliban issued a statement denying the beheadings in Ajristan, adding that "check points around the district centre are falling one after the other."

"Enemy claims that they have pushed back the mujahideen from their positions in Ghazni are complete lies," the English-language statement said.

The 350 000-strong Afghan security forces have been trained to thwart the Taliban by the US-led Nato coalition, which is now winding down its 13-year war in Afghanistan.

The three-month election stand-off was finally broken last Sunday when a "unity government" deal was agreed, with Ashraf Ghani serving as the next president and his rival Abdullah Abdullah taking up the new role of chief executive.

Ghani will be inaugurated in Kabul on Monday in Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power as President Hamid Karzai steps down.

All Nato combat operations will finish by the end of this year, but Ghani may sign a security deal as soon as Tuesday to allow 12 500 US-led troops to stay on into 2015 on a training and support mission.

Read more on:    isis  |  nato  |  afghanistan

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