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The Killid Group, January 27, 2015

Highways, route to death

“Armed men stop vehicles, rob passengers of their goods, search for government officials, and abduct anyone they want.”

By Samad Ali Nawazesh

Travellers on many of Afghanistan’s roads are never sure of reaching their destinations. Armed groups routinely rob and also kill passengers in buses and other vehicles.

According to eyewitness accounts, travellers on the busy Kabul to Kandahar highway are attacked even in the day time. Security forces are not able to provide every vehicle with armed escorts.

Juma Khan, a driver who plies the route regularly, says vehicles are stopped daily. “Armed men stop vehicles, rob passengers of their goods, search for government officials, and abduct anyone they want.” There are police and army patrols on some parts of the highway. But sometimes the bandits attack vehicles in plain sight of police posts, and there is no one to stop them, according to some drivers.

Kabul-Kandahar highway Afghanistan
Kabul-Kandahar Highway. (Photo: Jason P. Howe)

Isa jan, a driver on the Kabul-Kandahar route with Ahmad Shah Baba passenger service company, says armed gangs have destroyed parts of the road, forcing vehicles to drive slowly. “They wait by the destroyed culvert at Shahr Safa (near Zabul), and stop vehicles,” he says. According to him, the only protection for passengers is the Afghan National Army. “Wherever there is national army, the robber doesn’t exist. They are everywhere where there is no army,” he says.

The most dangerous roads are in the interiors of districts. Robbers operate without fear of being stopped or tracked down by security forces or the authorities. Mohammad Shah, a driver who ferries passengers on the road between Kabul and Jaghoori district in Ghazni province says highways are more secure than district roads. “When we go off the Kabul-Kandahar highway towards Jaghoori we are accosted by many types of robbers and armed individuals. They search the passengers, rob and release some. Sometimes they behead passengers,” he says.

Bandits rule the road from Kabul to Bamyan. Innumerable complaints have been made to the authorities but nothing has changed. Vehicles in the Ghorband area are routinely stopped, and searched. All passengers who are identified as government servants are sure to be executed.

Qader Poya, a civil society activist in Bamyan, confirms the journey to Bamyan is risky. “Although Bamyan is among the secure provinces the journey there is far from safe. Sometimes there is no problem, and passengers think there will be no trouble. But the journey can unpredictably turn into a deadly misadventure,” he says.

The areas of Jalrez and Takana in Jalrez district, Maidan Wardak province, are also very dangerous. There are two ways to travel from Kabul to Bamyan: through Ghorband district in Parwan province; and, Jalrez in Maidan Wardak.

Habibullah Helmandi, who lives in Daikundi says, “All vehicles are stopped in Jalrez and passengers forced to get out. If any one is found to be a government employee or some other important person, they are not permitted to board again.”

In Maidan Wardak, bandits frequent Poul Bandshoy, and the passes of Mullah Yaqub and Ghogardoy in Behsood district. “Vehicles there are stopped routinely, and robbed,” says Helmandi.

Anyone working with non-governmental organisations, both domestic and international, is also targeted. According to eyewitness accounts, whenever armed men have found aid workers among the passengers, they have brutally murdered them.

Residents of Daikundi province also complain about robberies, abductions and murders on the highway to Kabul. The problem gets worse in the winter months as snowfalls halt traffic, providing bandits with an opportunity to stop and rob passengers. The Kabul-Kunduz highway is equally dangerous.

Najibullah Danesh, a deputy spokesperson in the Ministry of Interior Affairs, admits the country’s roads are not safe, but insists the situation has improved.

Category: HR Violations - Views: 9227