Violent Crime Plagues Kabul Suburbs

Although the centre of Kabul now enjoys relative security, bands of armed robbers continue to plague surrounding suburbs.

Violent Crime Plagues Kabul Suburbs

Although the centre of Kabul now enjoys relative security, bands of armed robbers continue to plague surrounding suburbs.

Monday, 21 February, 2005

The suburbs of Kabul and main roads into the capital have become a

hotbed of violent crime in recent months.

After the formation of the interim authority and the arrival of international peacekeepers, the security situation in the city centre improved. But only a short distance away, armed bands operate with virtual impunity.

Police departments in areas like Parwan to the north and Hoddkhail to the

east of Kabul no longer function, or are unreliable. Main roads leading into the city are also extremely unsafe.

"Last night armed robbers broke into Haji Khalil's house, a neighbour, and stole all his belongings," said Mohammad Gul, from Hoodkhail.

Gulalai, another Hoodkhail resident, said he was also robbed recently.

"A number of armed men broke into my house and stole money and gold jewellery," he said. "Luckily, I found my things in a jewellery shop, where the thieves had sold them. And with the help of the security forces we found the thieves. They are in jail now."

Between Labul's Qambar Square and Arghandeh, to the west of the city, the security situation is particularly poor. Armed men driven from the centre of Kabul have regrouped there and are busy looting and intimidating the local inhabitants.

"Bandits broke into Dr Abdul Sattar Niazi's house. They killed him and looted his property," said one local resident, Deen Mohammad.

Kidnappings, he went on, have also been reported, "The bodies of two businessmen were found in a well."

"I was there when they found the bodies," his neighbour Abdullah confirmed, saying the kidnap gangs seized them in the hope of getting ransoms of five to six thousand US dollars.

Hedayatullah, from Kabul's western Dehdana district, said armed men had raided the home of an elderly, respected resident, Haji Mohammad Rahim, on February 10, stealing his belongings and abducting his


Similar tales are all too common elsewhere. Kohi-Safi district, about 10 km east of Bagram airbase, is beset by gangs of highway robbers. "The roads from Kabul to Kohi-Safi are full of robbers," said Haji Abdul

Jabar. "Just last week seven passengers in one vehicle were robbed at


Shafiullah, a taxi-driver plying the Kabul to Kohi-Safi route, said he had been attacked only a few days ago. "They signalled me to stop. I tried to escape but they shot at my car and punctured the tyres. When I got out they beat me up for trying to get away. Then they robbed the passengers. I've been ill as a result of that attack."

The head of the district, Abdul Waheed, concedes roads in the area are unsafe. "We've set up two security posts along the road but have not captured the robbers," he said.

"I have explained our security problems to the ISAF [International Security Assistance Force] authorities and they have promised help. The thieves are backed by armed groups and we lack the firepower to take them on."

In the meantime, the situation deteriorates by the day. Despite repeated calls from Afghanistan's interim leader Hamid Karzai for additional international security personnel to be deployed in the provinces, there has been no response.

Work on creating a national army is progressing slowly. Even if such a force can be brought together, disarming the armed groups is likely to prove difficult.

Those living in crime-ridden areas have no clear idea who to turn to when attacked. The Kabul authorities merely forward their complaints to the local authorities. Sadly the local commanders are often part

of the problem and not the solution.

Mohammad Shoaib Safi is freelance journalist in Kabul

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