Taliban force people to pay extortion money, Ghazni councilman confirms

With the security situation on Kabul-Kandahar highway deteriorating, local authorities in Ghazni call on civilians to take safety measures when they travel from Ghazni to Kabul, a call that indicates how incompetent the Afghan security forces have become.

The Taliban commanders in field collect 15,000,000 afghanis on daily basis from each of the checkpoints they have set across Kabul-Ghazni highway, says Abdul Jame Jame, a member of Ghazni Provincial Council.

A number of civilians who have recently traveled from Kabul to Ghazni say Taliban have set up more checkpoints across the road that connects the capital to central city of Ghazni. They say that the Taliban field commanders stop the passengers in checkpoints and force them to pay extortion money.     

The Kabul-Ghazni highway was relatively safe in the past years but ever since the beginning of 2019. The Taliban guerillas have set up checkpoints for purpose of obtaining extortion money in some areas under their control.

This ring road has become insecure for government employees and university students. On Sunday, September 29, the Taliban fighters took down Mirza Hossein Soroush, in Salar area of Sayed Abad district of Maidan Wardak province. Soroush was civilian deputy police chief of Ghazni. The Taliban killed him in later hours of the same date. Two days later, Amanullah Omari, another senior security official of Ghazni police, was killed by the Taliban on the same road.

The Taliban fighters are present in Ghazni province. Almost all Pashtun populated districts of the province are under the control of the Taliban. The government forces control Ghazni city and Hazara populated districts of the province.         

On October 01, the Taliban killed two children in Qiagh valley of Jaghatu district of Ghazni province.   

On October 03, the insurgent group took hostage 43 civilians who were from Khawaja Omari district of the province but released them later on October 07.    

Ali Reza, an employee, who works in Kabul, left the capital for his hometown on Monday, September 30. On his way back to Kabul, Ali was stopped by the Taliban in Sayed Abad district of Maidan Wardak province.  

“In a checkpoint set up in Chashma-e-Salar area of Sayed Abad district, Maidan Wardak province, our bus was stopped by the Taliban group. We [the passengers] were taken down and checked by a masked Taliban fighter. The Talib took out my bank card; then told me to stay aside, they wanted to take me hostage but old passengers begged them to leave me. I was released.”

Ali Reza said the Taliban checked smart phones of the passengers one by one in a bid to find clue, photo or video.

“A Talib hit my shoulder with slanted stock of his gun as I resisted to go with him. Taliban punish passengers when they find photo or video in passengers’ smart phones,” he said.  

Nahid Andishmand, an ethnic Hazara who recently has visited Ghazni, says the car—transporting her along with five passengers—was stopped by the Taliban in Qarabagh district on September 20. In a checkpoint set up in Ghazni-Jaghori road, they were taken down. The insurgents asked them to show their ID cards but as they did not have their IDs with themselves, a Talib beat them hard and punished them to confess that they were government employees.

Nahid says the Taliban stop every car in their checkpoints. They check the passengers and force them to pay money.

Taliban force people to pay extortion money

Ghazni is one of insecure provinces in Afghanistan. The Taliban insurgents have set up checkpoints on Kabul-Kandahar highway, a ring road that passes through Ghazni province.  According to reports, the insurgents force civilians, who frequent to Ghazni and Kabul, to pay extortion money.    

Ahmad Khan Sirat, spokesperson for Ghazni police chief, confirmed to Kabul Now that the Taliban insurgents obtain extortion money from civilians who travel to Ghazni city and Kabul. Mr. Sirat, however, did not mention the exact amount of money the Taliban collect from civilians on daily basis.

Mohammad Amin Mobalegh, the deputy governor of Ghazni, said some of Taliban checkpoints have been removed by Afghan security forces but the Taliban still pose threats to passengers as they have ‘influence’ in some areas of the province.

Amal Khan, spokesperson for 203 Thunder Corps, says operations are underway and the Afghan security forces are trying to secure the highway and remove Taliban checkpoints.  

But Councilman Jame Jame refused statements made by security officials, calling them ‘demagogic.’ He said security authorities have not taken any measure to remove Taliban checkpoints across the Kabul-Ghazni highway.        

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