Afghan locals take back 50 villages from Taliban
TALIBAN fighters have been evicted from 50 villages in eastern Afghanistan, according to local leaders, in an uprising that Kabul hopes will spread across the insurgent-held territory.
More than 250 men have taken up arms in Ghazni province and are fighting near-daily skirmishes against Taliban attempts to retake the area.
News of the revolt came on the same day three suicide bombers killed at least 28 people and wounded more than 60 when they blew themselves up at a busy city market and outside a hospital in southwest Afghanistan.
The attack was one of the most deadly this year, and the worst in the normally peaceful Nimroz.
The armed campaign against the Taliban began in protest of insurgent edicts closing schools and bazaars, as well as resentment that the Taliban were outsiders taking orders from Pakistan.
In four months of fighting, the uprising has lost more than 20 members, but claims to have cleared an enclave of Andar district which had previously been under tight Taliban control.
Its progress is being closely watched by NATO and Western officials who have long hoped the insurgents' repression might provoke a movement similar to the Sunni Awakening brigades that turned against al-Qa'ida in Iraq.
Lotfullah Kamrani (24), a graduate who now commands dozens of anti-Taliban fighters, said his men were in daily clashes, some lasting up to 10 hours. Since forcing the insurgents out of about a sixth of Andar's villages, they reopened shops and long-closed boys' schools.
Militiamen on motorbikes patrol fields and villages armed with a jumble of weapons left over from the Russian occupation and ensuing civil war.
"The Taliban are very strong, but, according to my belief, the community is on our side," Mr Kamrani said.
Frustration with the Taliban has grown in recent years, he said, as they appeared to be controlled more and more by outsiders from Pakistan.
"They were applying the law of Pakistan here in Afghanistan. They were creating their own rules on the orders of Pakistan," he said.
The Taliban deny that the rebellion is a popular movement, saying it is funded and directed by America and the Afghan government.
This week they distributed letters threatening to kill those who resisted. Privately, though, they have tried to negotiate.
"The Taliban have requested many times for us to talk with them," said Mr Kamrani. "There's no trust left though."
At least 28 people were killed and more than 60 injured after a group of suicide bombers struck in Afghanistan's south-western Nimroz province on the border with Iran. No one has yet claimed responsibility. (© Daily Telegraph, London)