Kabul: The governing council of a once
peaceful province in southwestern Afghanistan has fled to
Kabul after the Taliban killed one of their members and
threatened the others with death.
They fear US-led offensives to the east may simply be
pushing insurgents into new areas.
The council members from Nimroz province talk of a
rising tide of violence and intimidation as Taliban fighters
who have been forced out of neighbouring Helmand province,
which includes Marjah, shift operations to Nimroz. They say
other militants have been crossing into Nimroz from Iran,
where they trained at desert camps.
A spokesman for US Marines based in Nimroz insists
security has improved in the remote province along the border
with Iran and Pakistan.
But Afghan provincial officials say the approximately
2,000 US Marines and 1,000 Afghan soldiers operate primarily
in the northeast - 210 kilometres from the provincial capital,
Zaranj - and are unaware of conditions elsewhere in the
Nimroz had generally been regarded as peaceful until
May 5, when nine suicide bombers disguised as police stormed
the provincial council office in Zaranj, about 800 kilometres
southwest of Kabul, killing a woman council member, two
policemen and a visitor. All the attackers died. Police said
it was the worst attack in Nimroz in two years.
The Taliban claimed responsibility, saying the council
was trying to turn Afghans against the militants.
After the assault, the remaining eight council members
began receiving death threats - some as letters slipped under
doors, some as phone calls and some by text message.
Council member Shren Azizi said she had just returned
home from visiting the family of her murdered colleague when
her mobile phone rang.
"Your previous job as a teacher was good for you," the
middle-aged male caller said sternly.
"So go back to that if you want to stay alive. Think
about your children."
Afghan law reserves at least a quarter of the seats on
each provincial council for women.
About five days after the bombing, the council members
gathered at their blown-out headquarters. The chairman, Sadiq
Chakhansori, decided they`d had enough.
"I put a lock on the door and said, `OK, we`re going
to Kabul,`" Chakhansori told The Associated Press.
Since the roads were too dangerous, the group flew to
the western city of Herat and took another plane to Kabul.v
Only one council member stayed behind - too elderly and ill
for the trip.