Violent crime on the rise in Afghanistan’s main cities

Special Violent crime on the rise in Afghanistan’s main cities
The rise in criminal activity in Kabul has been linked to the presence of mafia and illegal armed groups, posing a threat to investment and businesses. (Reuters)
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Updated 11 January 2020

Violent crime on the rise in Afghanistan’s main cities

Violent crime on the rise in Afghanistan’s main cities
  • Thousands of roadside and home robbery cases were reported in Kabul, Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif last year
  • The rise in criminal activity threatens business and investment

KABUL: Ali Faraso was sitting at home in a southwestern neighborhood of Kabul when he heard cries. He ignored them, thinking that children were fighting. But a few minutes later, a person was desperately calling for help. Faraso recognized the voice of his cousin and rushed out to find him covered in blood.

A few minutes later, the 20-year-old was dead.

Ale Sena, a student at the American University in Afghanistan, was returning home when a group of men snatched his laptop. As he resisted, they stabbed him and run away.

“I usually do not venture out when it is dark because of fear of poor security, but when I heard Sena’s call for help, I thought there was something wrong,” Faraso told Arab News.

Police arrived at the scene after two hours. The incident took place last week and there has been no follow-up.

At least five other people have lost their lives to armed robbers in Kabul since the beginning of the month. Many more sustained injuries. Kabul police say they have registered 70 crime cases in the past two weeks, including armed conflict, robbery and assassination.

Thousands of roadside and home robbery cases were reported in Kabul and two of the country’s more secure big cities — Herat and Mazar-i-Sharif — last year. 

Criminal activity has been on the rise in other regions. On Tuesday, shopkeepers from Kunduz closed their businesses to stage a demonstration against worsening security.

Abdul Khaliq Zazai Watandost, a member of Kabul’s provincial council, told reporters that “in the past three months, more than 100 people have been killed” by criminals in the city.

According to security forces data, 523 people in Kabul were killed and were 638 wounded last year alone. Another 2,632 criminal cases were registered by the police.

Robbers, usually arriving in small groups on motorbikes, use both knives and firearms. Small pistols in Kabul’s black market are sold for less than $100, according to the Hasth Sobh newspaper.

Afzal Hadid, head of the provincial council in Balkh, of which Mazar-i-Sharif is the capital, told reporters that “93 cases of murders related to robberies have occurred in Mazar in the past six months alone.”

The actual numbers may be higher as not all families decide to file police reports.

The rise in criminal activity has been linked to the presence of mafia and illegal armed groups, posing a threat to investment and businesses.

Jan Aqa Naveed, spokesman for Afghanistan’s Chambers of Commerce, said traders are increasingly choosing to leave the country due to the rising crime rate.

Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah on Monday said that “Kabul residents are increasingly concerned about the gravity of the security situation because of the criminal incidents.”

Kabul residents have been criticizing the government and accusing the police of negligence.

However, according to the Interior Ministry’s adviser, Bahar Mehr, organized crime has drastically reduced in Kabul compared with last year, because police have managed to arrest a number of gang members.

According to Mehr, police have arrested 128 suspected thieves in Kabul over the past month and most of them were boys.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Ghulam Hussien Naseri accused the police of freeing repeated offenders and of having links with the mafia and criminal groups.

He said some officers were appointed on the basis of corruption and had sourced the money for graft from criminals who they would free in exchange.