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Insurgents increasingly attacking power stations, bridges

[Afghanistan] UN Staff moving from Bagram air-base to Kabul.
The World Food Programme (WFP) successfully resumed its trucking operations from Pakistan to Jalalabad on Monday, after a lull of one week. (WFP)

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has said “anti-government elements” have been trying to blow up a major hydro-electric power plant, the Naghlu Dam, to the east of Kabul, which supplies electricity to over three million people.

“We have received credible intelligence reports indicating that insurgents are trying to demolish the Naghlu power dam,” said Zahir Azimi, a spokesman of the MoD. Gunmen believed to be associated with Taliban insurgents attacked a security post near the Naghlu Dam on 29 July but withdrew after Afghan forces put up a fight, the MoD said.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has called on Taliban insurgents and other anti-government elements to stop attacking what they called “civilian infrastructural facilities”, saying the attacks adversely affected civilians.

However, Zabihullah Mujahid, a purported spokesman for the insurgents, denied the insurgents had any intention of destroying the dam. “The government is only trying to camouflage its failure to provide electricity to people because billions in aid money has been wasted,” Mujahid told IRIN on the phone from an unspecified location.

Afghan officials had previously warned that insurgents were intending to blow up the second biggest power plant, Kajaki Dam, in volatile Helmand Province.

Adverse impact on civilians

The AIHRC said attacks on public infrastructural facilities adversely affected civilians and were unjustifiable.

“Such attacks are clearly in violation of international humanitarian law [IHL], the Geneva Conventions and other laws applicable to armed hostilities,” Ahmad Nadir Nadiry, a spokesman of the AIHRC, told IRIN on 30 July.

Nadiry accused the Taliban of repeated and systematic violations of IHL and the Geneva Conventions and said the insurgents’ tactics often deliberately put civilians at greater risk.

Barnett Rubin, an expert on Afghanistan at New York University, said civilians were suffering the brunt of the Taliban’s insurgency.

“Naghlu Dam belongs to the nation of Afghanistan, not any particular government,” said Rubin, adding that the insurgents should not attack it.


Photo: Abdullah Shaheen/IRIN
Officials said Taliban insurgents had tried to blow up the Kajaki hydroelectricity dam and power plant

“New stage” in guerrilla war

Taliban insurgents have attacked schools and hospitals, and were now turning their attention to bigger infrastructural targets such as hydro-electric plants, bridges and telecommunications facilities, the AIHRC and analysts said.

The insurgents reportedly destroyed a major bridge on the Kabul-Kandahar highway on 26 July, causing extensive traffic problems.

In another incident on 27 July Taliban gunmen burnt down a private telecommunications tower in eastern Kunar Province, local media reported.

“It seems the insurgents have reached a new stage in the development of guerrilla war. They can organise sophisticated operations against well-defended targets. This is quite different from burning down a school at night and shows a new level of organisation,” Rubin said.

According to Rubin, the recent wave of attacks on civilian infrastructural facilities resembled the Mujahedin’s war against Soviet forces in the 1980s.

“They [the insurgents] are trying to show they can move and strike anywhere with impunity and that the government, NATO, and the US are powerless to stop them,” he said.

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This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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