The Taliban has admitted that their chopper was shot down but did not reveal the identity of their captured commander….writes Mrityunjoy Kumar Jha
The Taliban has launched fresh air and ground attacks in the Panjshir valley in a bid to rescue one of the senior commanders and four crew members who are under the custody of the National Resistance Front (NRF).
Two days ago, the anti-Taliban NRF led by Ahmad Massoud had claimed that they had shot down a MI-17 chopper and arrested a senior Taliban commander along with the helicopter’s crew. The NRF video shows an Mi17 helicopter engulfed in smoke somewhere in Panjshir mountains of northern Afghanistan. The group also released the pictures of captured Taliban pilots and a commander who were onboard the chopper.
“The brave forces of the NRF shot down a Taliban occupier’s helicopter in the Arezoo valley of Panjshir. Unlike the Taliban, we are treating the arrested Taliban commander and others as the law of prisoners of war,” Sibghatullah Ahmadi, the NRF’s spokesperson told local Afghan media. He added that the NRF was ready to exchange these prisoners under the supervision of the Red Cross.
The Taliban has admitted that their chopper was shot down but did not reveal the identity of their captured commander. According to NRF, the Taliban commander was a “high value” prisoner. It warned the Taliban of dire consequences if they try to launch any rescue operation.
According to unverified reports, the NRF has killed three Taliban commanders including a key aide of Abdul Haq Waseq, the Taliban’s intelligence chief who is very close to Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s Interior Minister.
“The NRF fighters are spread around the Kuhsar village, Paryan, Panjshir. The freedom fighters have about 20 heavily defended bases in the Panjshir mountains and during the last 10 months the Taliban terrorists did not manage to capture even one base,” tweeted Frenkie Mark,a French journalist who is there in Panjshir.
Over the past few weeks, NRF fighters have launched many attacks on Taliban in the erstwhile Northern Alliance bastion.
“We do not recognise this Taliban government because they have not gained their legitimacy from people ”, Ahmad Massoud said. He added that he is ready to stop the war if the Taliban agree to form an inclusive government where all ethnic groups and women have a decisive participation.
The NRF, an armed coalition of several militias and former Afghan military personnel, was formed after the Taliban recaptured Kabul last August. The alliance is led by Ahmad Massoud, the son of Ahmad Shah Massoud, a legendary anti-Taliban fighter, who used the Panjshir Valley as a base to fight the Soviets in the 1980s and the Taliban in the 1990s. Panjshir is a predominantly ethnic Tajik region, whereas the Taliban are dominated by Pashtuns.
Ahmad Massaod says that his fight is for the inclusive government in Afghanistan which the Taliban has failed to form despite their promises made to the world.
“We do not recognise this Taliban government because they have not gained their legitimacy from people ”, Ahmad Massoud told Al Arabiya TV.
He said that the NRF Council has released a charter that states that armed resistance will be used if the Taliban do not comply with the wishes of the inclusive transitional government. “We have proposed the charter which has a detailed report on the political system, the decentralized parliamentary Islamic Republic of Afghanistan.” he said.
But the Taliban has called the attacks by the NRF as minor local skirmishes.
“These claims are untrue. There was some gunfire from the mountains. We have taken steps to suppress them,” was the version of a spokesman in the Panjshir government office. Six Islamic Emirate troops have died in the clashes so far. “The claims of much higher casualties made by opponents are untrue”. But various posts on social media have shown pictures of top Taliban leaders visiting those areas where the battles are raging.
In the last two weeks, the Deputy Prime Minister Mullah Baradar,the Defence Minister of the Taliban, Mullah Yaqoob and other top leaders of the group were seen in the Panjshir valley.
Earlier, the Taliban tried to reach out to the NRF for negotiation. In late January, a Taliban delegation led by the Foreign Minister Amir Khan Mutaqqi met Massoud in Tehran and Moscow, but the talks have apparently not yielded positive results.
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