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Kabul deploys elite forces as Taliban ratchets up attacks on minority Hazaras

An Afghan policeman stands guard as Hazara women walk by [Getty]

Date of publication: 8 November, 2018

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Afghans have expressed alarm over the Taliban's targeting of the minority and largely Shia Hazaras in recent weeks.

Kabul deployed elite special forces on Thursday in the country's southeast to beat back Taliban fighters targeting the minority Hazaras.

The Taliban has ratcheted up attacks against the minority group and Afghan security forces, who are suffering record casualties.

Heavy fighting in the Jaghori district of Ghazni province has been ongoing since the Taliban launched a pre-dawn attack on two checkpoints manned by local pro-government forces on Wednesday.

"The Taliban fighters have burned civilian houses, but we don't have precise information about the number of dead and wounded," provincial deputy police chief Ramazan Ali Mohsini told AFP

Most Hazaras are Shia Muslims unlike the Taliban, which are Sunni and largely ethnic Pashtuns, the largest group in Afghanistan.

The Taliban has been accused of committing human rights violations against Hazaras during their oppressive 1996-2001 rule. 

Members of Afghanistan's elite special forces flew into the Jaghori district centre on Thursday and were "on their way to the frontline", President Ashraf Ghani's deputy spokesman said on Facebook. 

The Taliban denied they were targeting "any specific race, ethnicity or sect", in a statement posted on their website. 

The attacks were against the "Kabul regime and American hireling positions in Jaghori", spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said.

But Afghans have taken to Facebook to express concerns about the apparent deliberate targeting of Hazaras.

The recent fighting comes after a days-long battle between Taliban fighters and a Hazara militia group in the central province of Uruzgan that reportedly sent terrified families fleeing into neighbouring Ghazni province.  

A recent US government watchdog report said the Taliban "now controls more territory than at any time since 2001", a reference to when the US launched what is now a seventeen-year-old war to oust the militant group.

This year broadly has also proved to be the deadliest for Afghan civilians. Suicide bombs caused more than 2,300 civilian casualties so far, more than any other tactic, including ground fighting, according to a recent UN report.

The marked escalation in civilian and military casualties comes as the Taliban show a tentative willingness to hold bilateral talks with the US in Qatar. 

The group also confirmed Tuesday they would send a delegation to an international gathering in Moscow on Friday that aims to kickstart peace talks between Kabul and the Taliban.

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