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Peace movement denies members taken by Taliban

AT News Report

KABUL: A public movement who rallies for peace in the southern areas, denied reports that its members were taken hostage by Taliban, saying they went to militant-controlled areas to hold talks with the insurgents.

A group of the peace movement members went missing earlier this week and were said to have been kidnapped by Taliban in the Musa Qala district of the southern province of Helmand. They returned on Thursday to the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah.

Besmellah Watandost, who speaks with the media representing the movement, said Friday that they could not make contacts with them because mobile phone companies have no activities in the Taliban-held areas. Watandost was among those believed to have been taken hostage.

He said that Taliban fighters had “good and friendly” treatment with them. “We went to the Taliban-controlled areas with a peace message. We shared people’s pains with them. We had constructive discussions. Some of misunderstandings were resolved and we came back to Lashkar Gah,” said Watandost.

These people were welcomed by hundreds of Helmand residents when they returned home. 30 members of the peace movement went to Musa Qala which has been under Taliban control for several years.

Watandost confirmed that a few of their colleagues were questioned by Taliban who doubted if they were government’s persons.

He said that residents of Musa Qala live with fear of airstrikes by government forces and foreign troops, as the people in government-held regions are worried about suicide attacks.

“There was fear in marketplace, there was fear in the mosque, in the village and picnic places. Fear was dominant everywhere just as there is concern of terrorist attacks in the cities.”

The first group of peace movement walked from Helmand to Kabul and then to the northern areas last year after a suicide attack killed 16 civilians and injured more than 50 others.

Some 4,000 civilians including 900 children were killed and another 7,000 wounded last year across the country, according to a report by the United Nations, that calls 2018 the “the deadliest year”.

The six rounds of negotiations between Taliban and the United States could not change the situation and the insurgents have recently intensified attacks on the civilians and security forces.

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