UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs
AFGHANISTAN: Faction fighting flares up in Oruzgan Province
KABUL, 16 Mar 2004 (IRIN) - Following a series of serious human rights abuses in the Daikundi district of the central province of Oruzgan, the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC0) said factional rivalries continue to remain a serious concern.
AIHRC's comments follow a report from security officials in Daikundi early this week that four civilians had been killed and many families forcibly displaced after fighting erupted between two local commanders in the isolated district.
The situation in Daikundi remains a concern for AIHRC due to the presence of armed groups, Nader Nadery, a commissioner for AIHRC, told IRIN on Tuesday.
Nadery said serious fighting often erupted over issues of opium trading and the collection of forced taxes. "According to our records, the human rights problem in Daikundi is one of the worst in Afghanistan," the human rights activist said.
With the fledging Afghan army and national police yet to be extended across the country to supplant the militias and strengthen the government's control beyond the capital Kabul, factional violence still dogs the government's efforts to stabilise the country.
In early February, fighting erupted between rival warlords - possibly over drugs - in Argo district of the remote northern Badakhshan province, according to officials at the Afghan Interior Ministry. State television reported 20 dead and several injured as a result of fighting in Argo, which continued for several days until police reinforcements were sent to the area.
In another incident in February, four commanders were killed in Shulgara district of the northern Balkh province when they were ambushed by a rival militia group.
Shulgara witnessed several factional skirmishes that led to the killing and displacement of civilians until the middle of last year when the warring groups were disarmed by the government.
According to the AIHRC, during 2003 the level of fighting between local warlords increased compared to the previous year. Local civilians are usually the main victims of such fighting. "But at least in two of these incidents the government intervened immediately and that can be counted as a positive step towards the rule of law," Nadery noted.
Even in the provinces where the Taliban are not active, such as in the north, powerful warlords compete for influence, often battling for control of land and resources - including the booming narcotics trade. "I believe the insecurity in the country is not only because of the Taliban attacks in the south but it also has another side. The presence of warlords and their abuses are a direct threat to security and cause human rights violations," the commissioner noted.
Daikundi has been experiencing various rights abuses since last year. Last September, the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) in Kabul reported that 60 families had been displaced by factional fighting in Daikundi after a resumption of fighting between local commanders.
According to people from Daikundi, the recent fighting was between two local armed groups known as Pasdar [Guardians] and Sazman [Organisation]. "They killed four civilians and looted people's property," according to Wahizi, in charge of security of Daikundi, quoted by a local radio on Monday.
According to Wahizi, people are fed up with these factional conflicts and have been leaving the country for neighbouring Pakistan and Iran. "We need prompt action by the government to tackle this issue," he said.
Factional fighting has flared up repeatedly across much of Afghanistan, complicating the task of rebuilding a nation shattered by two decades of war. Meanwhile, Taliban and Al-Qaeda rebels are also active in lawless southern and eastern provinces and have been targeting aid workers and government employees involved in development work in post-conflict Afghanistan.
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