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Baghlan residents ask govt to avoid collateral damage in military ops

“Taliban has strong presence in the area. Security forces trying best to avoid civilian casualties,” says Gen. Waziri

By Farhad Naibkhel-KABUL: Expressing serious concerns over civilian casualties in the ongoing military operation in Baghlan, residence of Dand-e-Ghori and Dand-e-Shahabuddin asked for immediate ceasefire. On the other hand, Ministry of Defense (MoD) termed it purely an anti-Taliban operation and said that it was trying best to avoid collateral damage.

Criticizing the government for the military operation which has been launched three weeks ago, the residents claimed that hundreds of civilians were killed and injured in the offensive while thousands of families displaced.

“Due to the conflict 125 civilians, including 40 women and children, were killed and over 650 others wounded. Over 10,000 families in Dand-e-Ghori, Dand-e-Shahabuddin and central Baghlan were displaced,” said Khairullah Shenwarai, a resident of Dand-e-Ghori.

He said that orchards and crops were destroyed in the military operation.

Faiz Mohammad Zaland, a civil society activist, termed the operation as genocide of the common people.

He said that the government should take measures to protect civilians and address their grievances. “This is an imposed war on Afghans in which Afghans are killing and killed. We must keep unity and raise our voice to overcome the issue,” he insisted.

However, MoD said the Taliban has strong presence in Dand-e-Shahabuddin and Dand-e-Ghori and are using civilians as a shield to hamper the ongoing military operation in the districts. Spokesman for the ministry, Gen. Dawlat Waziri, said that security forces are proceeding with extreme caution to avoid civilian casualties.

Rejecting the claims of the residents about the civilian casualties in Dand-e-Ghori and Dand-e-Shahabuddin, the spokesman said that there was no truth in the reports.

He said that Taliban has strong presence in Dand-e-Ghori and Dand-e-Shahabuddin, where the militant group is carrying out subversive activities and destroying power pylons to sabotage the ongoing anti-insurgents operation.

“Taliban are hiding in the villages and firing on Afghan army from houses. The militants are also using villagers as shield in the area,” he added.

The spokesman said that the military was carrying out the operation with “extreme caution” to avoid collateral damage.

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