Over 13,000 Afghans forced to flee Taliban, Daesh battle

Members of an Afghan family who fled their village in Nangarhar province at their temporary home in Jalalabad. (AP)
Updated 12 June 2019

Over 13,000 Afghans forced to flee Taliban, Daesh battle

  • Displaced people await aid from the government
  • Daesh has frequently been met with resistance from locals, due to its extremist conduct

KABUL: Hundreds of Afghan families have been forced to leave their villages because of fighting between the Taliban and affiliates of Daesh in eastern Nangarhar province in recent weeks, officials said on Wednesday.

The fighting concentrated in the Shinwari and Khoghani districts of the province, which borders Pakistan, and has served as a bastion for Daesh loyalists since the group emerged in Afghanistan in late 2014.

Most of the displaced, including children and the elderly, have ended up in the desert, where they face soaring heat, lack of water, shelter and food, Aryan Youn, a local delegate, told Arab News.

“These people have suffered casualties and now live in miserable conditions. It is nearly 50 degrees there. A few families have received aid from locals and traders, but the government has not provided any aid for them yet because of bureaucracy,” she said.

Fighting in Nangarhar broke out days before the holy month of Ramadan after Daesh tried to take control of Taliban territory.

Najibullah Qayoumi, head of the provincial department for refugees, said the government has provided aid to some of those displaced and confirmed that families have settled in the desert.

He told Arab News the number of displaced was over 13,000.

“The fighting erupted in one area and then spread to other parts, so like many other people we had to flee,” Tawakal Shah, a displaced resident, said.

FASTFACT

The terrorist organization wanted to gain control of Taliban strongholds in Nangahar province.

Shah Mahmood Miakhel, governor of Nangarhar, told Arab News both Daesh and the Taliban were enemies of the government and that it has used airstrikes against both groups. He added that Daesh had filled the vacuum created after a government airstrike wiped out a number of Taliban leaders in April.

The governor’s spokesman, Attaullah Khogyani, refused to be drawn on whether Afghan forces would be deployed against the two groups. He also refused to answer questions on how the organizations had gained such a foothold in the region, after a series of prolonged operations against them by the US and Afghan soldiers. Washington famously dropped the world’s largest bomb, nicknamed the “Mother of all Bombs” (MOAB) on militants in 2017.

Daesh has frequently been met with resistance from locals, due to its extremist conduct, including forcefully marrying young girls and killing community elders in brutal ways. 

Waheed Mozhdah, an analyst, said the spread of Daesh’s activities in Afghanistan had “raised lots of questions and suspicions not only among ordinary Afghans, but the Taliban too.

“One reason why the Taliban are hesitant about talks (with the US) is that they think America is bringing Daesh to Afghanistan. The Taliban have openly said that America is aiding Daesh here,” he said.

US officials have repeatedly rejected as baseless accusations raised by Iran, Russia and former Afghan President Hamid Karzai that Washington is helping Daesh in Afghanistan to destabilize the region.

Some 1.4 million Afghans have been internally displaced due to the conflict, as well as natural disasters, in the last 18 years.


Sri Lanka turns former military air base into third international airport

Updated 18 October 2019

Sri Lanka turns former military air base into third international airport

  • President Sirisena termed the opening of Palaly Airport for commercial flights “a significant landmark of the development program commenced after the conclusion of the conflict.”

COLOMBO: The Palaly Airport, a former military air base, has been turned into Jaffna International Airport, the third gateway to the island.

The new airport was inaugurated by the island’s President, Maithripala Sirisena, while Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe and his Cabinet ministers also witnessed the ceremony.

The refurbished airport, costing $13.8 million, has a 1,400-meter long runway to facilitate ATR 72 aircraft, which can carry 70 passengers. It will later be expanded to 3,500 meters to handle large passenger aircraft such as the Airbus A320 and A321.

Located approximately 16 km north of Jaffna, Palaly was a Sri Lanka Air Force base and a domestic airport. The airport was built by the British Royal Air Force during the WWII.

After independence, Palaly Airport was used as the second international airport of the country for flights to southern India before the civil war began, almost 40 years ago.

President Sirisena termed the opening of Palaly Airport for commercial flights “a significant landmark of the development program commenced after the conclusion of the conflict.”

Prime Minister Wickremesinghe said the upgraded Jaffna International Airport marked a “turning point” in Sri Lankan aviation, which would be “an asset for the entire nation.”

“The airport will deploy regional airliners and be elevated to an Asian travel destination,” the premier said.

“The airport, which is expected to accommodate direct flights between Sri Lanka and India, will contribute toward promoting the tourism industry in the north. This will play an important role in the economic growth and overall development of the country,” he added.  

The service will be made available first for Indian destinations, and later for flights to Australia, China, Japan, the Middle East and some European cities.                                                      

Transport and Civil Aviation Minister Arjuna Ranatunga said Palaly airport was developed into Jaffna International Airport in a very short period of time.

“We were able to overcome the challenge successfully due to the sincere assistance we received from all institutes and stakeholders contributed to the development,” he said.

The minister said that in addition to Colombo and Jaffna international airports, three more airports in Sri Lanka will be upgraded to international airports, such as Ratmalana and Batticaloa.

“The opening of Jaffna airport for regional scheduled commercial passenger operations will undoubtedly enhance the quality of life of people in the area, with improved connectivity and accessibility that the airport brings to the region. It would also help reduce the current congestion at Bandaranaike International Airport and also eliminate the difficulties of the people in the north have in coming to Colombo Airport,” said H. M. C.Nimalsiri, director general of civil aviation.