As many as eleveen people were killed and dozen others were wounded last Friday, January 29, after policemen, commanded by Maidan Wardak Police Chief Allahdad Fedaee, opened fire at people gathered in a peaceful protest held in Behsud district of Maidan Wardak province. A Government official in Kabul was quick to respond, saying the protest turned violent after clash erupted between the armed men loyal to Alipoor, a local commander who leads people’s uprising force in Behsud.
There are contradicting reports about the incident, with some eyewitnesses saying that policemen opened fire at a peaceful protest held by civilians while government sources claim that civilians provoked by Alipoor were protesting appointment of new district police chiefs in Hesa-e-Awal Behsud and the Central Behsud.
Locals, however, say that groups of heavily armed forces deployed by Maidan Wardak Police Chief stayed in the area even after the official appointment ceremony of district police chief was over.
“People wanted to know the purpose of 30 tanks and other military equipment,” says Rohullah Noori, a witness, “[but] the security forces kept bullying the locals; stopping them, checking their cars and asking them many questions,” he adds.
The deadly Behsud incident was followed by public criticism, with some prominent leaders condemning police act and calling for calm.
In a statement issued on Saturday, January 30, Hamid Karzai, former president, expressed concerns over killing of locals in Hesa-e-Awal Behsud. He called on the government to resolve tension between government and the locals in a peaceful way.
Mohammad Karim Khalili, the leader of Hizb-e-Wahdat Islami Afghanistan, in a statement, called on the government leadership to pull the security forces out of the area. Khalili condemned the police act.
Noori says security forces used tanks and fired at civilians. In the aftermath of the attack, the security forces did not allow civilians to take those wounded to hospital.
In early January, Allahdad Fedaee, the police chief of Maidan Wardak, accompanied by a large group of security forces went to Hesa-e-Awal Behsud and the Central Behsud to introduce the newly appointed district police chiefs but the security forces stayed in the districts even with the official appointment ceremony was over.
Locals say that presence of heavily armed security forces was a matter of concern for them.
In November 2018, the National Directorate of Security detained Alipoor for several hours but he was later released under pressure by his supporters. In 2015, Abdul Ghani, known as Commander Alipoor, joined people uprising forces after conflict erupted between locals and nomads in Behsud. He began to lead a group of about 150 men who grouped under the name of Resistance Front.
Last week, Mahdi Rasikh, an MP who represents Maidan Wardak, accompanying a delegation, traveled to Behsud to resolve tension. Under directives by the National Security Council, the security forces refused to leave the area, Rasikh told Kabul Now as quoting the security forces who have stationed in Behsud. “We asked them to share with us if they had any problem with Alipoor and Resistance Front but they referred us to talk to the National Security Council.”
A delegation led by Lieutenant General Ebadullah Ebad, has been sent to Behsud to investigate the incident, a source at the National Security Council said on Monday, February 01. The delegation includes members of the Independent Directorate of Local Governance, the Deputy of National Directorate of Security, a member of Maidan Wardak Provincial Council, President Advisor for Public Affairs and the influential figures of Maidan Wardak.
There are contradicting reports about death toll left by police firing. Tariq Aryan, spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior, claimed that nine “irresponsible armed forces” loyal to Alipoor were killed and seven others were wounded. He said that the Police Chief of Maidan Wardak had gone to Hesa-e-Awal Behsud to consolidate police checkpoints and introduce newly appointed district police chief but gunmen affiliated with Alipoor prevented them.
Locals, however, tell a different story.
Mr. Rasikh told press that a number of local elders and civilians, who had gone to office of district police chief to know more about the presence of heavily armed forces, faced bullets fired by police forces. He claimed that police firing left 11 civilians including children dead and 25 others wounded. The security forces have taken 150 civilians including elders as hostages, according to Rasikh.
Mohammad Hossein Tawana, who introduces himself as spokesperson for the Resistance Front, said that at least 20 civilians were killed and an over 100 others were taken as hostages by the security forces.
A picture which went viral on social media showed that some of those killed were in military uniform. Mr. Tawana says a small number of locals who wear military uniform are in charge of security in the area. He says that they were not armed.
Abdullah Abdullah, chairman of the High Council for National Reconciliation, called on the government to investigate the case and bring the perpetrators to justice. He also called on the people of Hesa-e-Awal Behsud to stay calm.
This is the first time police is opening fire at people in Behsud district of Maidan Wardak. Alipoor, who leads a group of uprising forces in the district, is a pro-government commander who has been fighting against the Taliban insurgency in Behsud.
Mohammad Mohaqiq, who is leader of Hizb-e-Wahdat Mardoom Afghanistan, also called on the government to resolve the issue through a legal mechanism.
Sarwar Danesh, the second vice president, in a statement, said killing and injuring people are not acceptable. VP Danish assured the locals that a delegation would launch probe into what he called a tragic issue.
The killings in Behsud have provoked outrage in some areas of the country. A number of politicians and MPs expressed outrage over police firing. A number of civilians launched a protest in Bamyan yesterday, demanding the government to probe the Behsud case and bring the perpetrators to justice.