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Taliban-IS Clashes Displace Hundreds of Afghan Families


Afghan villagers fleeing from the resent conflicts arrive at the Behsud district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, April 24, 2019.

VOA's Zabihullah Ghazi contributed to this story from Nangarhar province.

NANGARHAR, AFGHANISTAN / WASHINGTON — Fighting between the Islamic State terror group and Taliban insurgents has displaced more than 450 families in eastern Nangarhar province in recent days, Afghan officials told VOA.

Fighting erupted Monday when IS militants attacked areas under Taliban control in Sherzad and Khogyani districts of Nangarhar province, officials said.

The Department of Refugees and Returnees of Nangarhar told VOA that more people are expected to be displaced as intense firefights between the militant groups continue in the province.

"Only on Tuesday, 254 families from Sherzad and Khogyani filled the applications to receive humanitarian assistance and 159 families gathered outside of our office on Wednesday," Najibullah Qayoumi, director of Nangarhar's Department of Refugees and Returnees, told VOA.

Displaced families claim that women and children are living in dire conditions and if international humanitarian organizations do not assist the residents of Sherzad and Khogyani districts, the situation would get worse.

"IS and Taliban are fighting each other, but it's civilians that are suffering. People are forced to flee. There are women and children. The situation is grim," Jawid Zaman, a local resident, told VOA.

"We call on government to help the people as soon as possible," Zaman added.

Displaced families claimed on Thursday that they had not yet received any assistance from the government or aid organizations.

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Provincial officials, however, said efforts are under way to provide the displaced families with cash, food and other emergency assistance.

"An emergency meeting was called by the provincial governor, focusing on providing food and other assistance to the displaced families. Measures are under way, surveys will be conducted, and assistance will be distributed to qualified families," Attaullah Khogyani, Nangarhar governor's spokesperson, told VOA.

Taking up arms

Local residents of Nangarhar province are warning that with IS militants strengthening in their province, if the government does not take any measures against them, they will take up arms to defend their homes.

Some who have already taken up arms are asking the government and international forces not to confuse them with militants and attack them.

"About 100 men in Sherzad district have taken up arms to defend themselves. We ask the government not to mistake us with Taliban and not to target and kill us," Mohammad Younus, Sherzad district local council member, told VOA.

Officials in Nangarhar promised to suppress the militants and to make it possible for the safe return of displaced families.

To that end, Afghan security forces plan to conduct an operation in the area to clear it of militants, making it safe for displaced families to return, according to provincial officials.

14,000 families displaced

Local authorities told VOA that the conflict in the region has forced more than 14,000 families to flee their homes in Nangarhar over the past four years.

Afghan villagers fleeing fighting arrive at the Behsud district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, April 24, 2019.
Afghan villagers fleeing fighting arrive at the Behsud district of Nangarhar province, Afghanistan, April 24, 2019.

Clashes between the Taliban and IS are a continuing issue in eastern Afghanistan, particularly in Nangarhar, the traditional stronghold of the IS Khorasan branch that emerged in the country in 2015. The militant group has since made inroads to adjacent provinces in the eastern and northern parts of the country.

This is the second time this month that thousands of people have been forced to flee their homes in the region because of fighting between IS militants and Taliban.

Earlier this month, about 3,000 families were displaced in neighboring Kunar province because of clashes between IS and Taliban.

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