WASHINGTON - In the last few weeks, at least 160 families have been displaced in eastern Afghanistan’s Nangarhar province by Islamic State attacks and fighting between U.S.-backed Afghan government forces and various militant groups.
More than 400 families have been displaced in the province in the past 10 months.
Families in the province say they left their houses to escape violence from militants.
“It’s been a few days that the IS militants have re-emerged, and a new round of firefighting has started. We had no choice but to seek refuge in deserts, under the government-controlled areas,” Khan Mohammad, a displaced man, told VOA.
Two hundred and fifty of the displaced families are from Nangarhar’s restive Pachir Wa Agam district where IS militants are active and fighting Afghan security forces and Taliban insurgents over territory control.
IS militants attacked the Pachir Wa Agam district, destroyed many homes and captured more than two dozen local men last December, according to Afghan officials.
The district came under heavy airstrikes when the U.S. entered Afghanistan in pursuit of al-Qaida and the Taliban beginning in late 2001.
Attaullah Khogyani, the governor of Nangarhar’s spokesperson, downplayed the IS threat but confirmed a recent displacement of 160 families within Deh Bala district of the province.
“The reasons for displacement of these families are the current special military operation against IS militants,” he added.
Afghan joint forces drove IS extremists out of the Pachir Wa Agam district in Nangarhar last December, and then hundreds of local men joined the central government's security forces to help ensure that IS radicals cannot return to the area.
The Afghan Defense Ministry talked down any “serious” IS threat in the area, asserting that militants are trying to terrify unarmed locals at the behest of regional intelligence agencies. General Mohammad Radmanish told VOA that multiple military operations are underway in eastern Nangarhar province to remove remaining IS fighters.
“We will boost these military operations to provide security and wipe out the traitors. We are also starting to venture the new strategy and improvise our local army units once the areas are cleared,” Radmanish added.
During the past three years, more than 14,000 families were displaced internally in Nangarhad and only 8,000 of them have returned to their houses, Afghan authorities said.
Joint U.S. and Afghan forces’ air and land operations killed at least 100 IS militants in the province in the past two weeks, Hayatullah Hayat, Nangarhar’s newly appointed governor said last Tuesday.