By Habib Rahman Sherzai
Residents of the provincial capital of northern Baghlan province on Wednesday staged a protest demonstration against the alleged torture and arrest of innocent people by ISAF and Afghan forces during a night raids.
Nearly 150 people took part in the rally in the Joi Naw area of Pul-i-Khumri, the provincial capital. They gathered in front of the governor’s house, accusing foreign troops of arresting innocent people on charges of connections with the Taliban.
They claimed helicopters-borne Afghan and ISAF forces raided homes and arrested several innocent inmates two days ago, insisting the detainees had no links with insurgents.
American soldiers on a raid in mid-July intended to catch militants. (Photo: Benjamin Lowy / The New York Times)
“During the raid, Afghan forces blindfolded me and tied my hands and took me to a mosque” Mamor Ghulam, a protestor, told Pajhwok Afghan News.
He spent the night in the mosque. As his blindfold was removed in the morning, Ghulam said he saw many elders had been arrested and brought to the mosque.
Mohammad Aslam, an influential figure in the area, said the Taliban did not operate in the area and locals have no links with them. He said some residents were beaten by the joint forces during the raid.
The protestors recalled two civilians had been arrested in a similar operation eight months ago, but released after spending some time in a jail.
“We have several times complained to local officials, but no one is ready to help stop irresponsible operations in our area” one protestor said.
Baghlan Governor Sultan Mohammad Ibadi expressed his unawareness about the raid on civilian homes, saying such an operation had not been coordinated with his administration. “Such operations widen the gap between the people and the government,” the governor remarked, vowing to share the issue with Afghan and ISAF officials.
The 209th Shaheen Military Corps spokesman in Baghlan, Abdul Qahar, denied the joint forces had tortured locals.
He said a small number of individuals were interrogated for a short period of time as part of a security operation and were released as the operation concluded.
ISAF says it has no report about a joint operation in Baghlan.