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Clashes break out in Afghanistan over poppy crop clearing: residents

Clashes in Afghanistan poppy crop
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Clashes broke out on Monday between Taliban forces tasked with clearing poppy crops and farmers in Afghanistan’s northeastern Badakhshan province, residents told AFP.

Poppy cultivators threw rocks and demanded Taliban security units not destroy their crops, said Jamaluddin, a resident of Barlas Shalmar village in the Argo district of Badakhshan whose name has been changed for security reasons.

In response, Taliban authorities fired their guns to disperse villagers, Jamaluddin, who witnessed the incident, said.

A nurse at a medical facility in Argo, also speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP the clinic received “two dead and nine wounded people” from the Barlas area — a string of three neighbouring villages.

A statement from the Taliban’s army unit in Badakhshan said there had been protests to prevent poppy clearing in Argo, but did not note any deaths or injuries as a result.

The “situation had returned to normal,” said spokesman Noorullah Nazari, who was quoted in the statement.

“Several agitators who provoked the people have been arrested and the process of destroying (poppy) fields in the district is ongoing,” said military official Mahboobullah Hamed, who was quoted in the same statement and was in the area of the protests.

A Taliban official who was not authorised to speak on the incident but who was part of the units sent to destroy poppy crops, said residents came out to resist the clearing with sticks, stones and shovels, wounding some Taliban forces.

“They wouldn’t talk with us, they picked up stones, sticks and shovels to stop us,” he told AFP.

An AFP journalist in the provincial capital Faizabad saw three helicopters heading in the direction of neighbouring Argo, and a checkpoint had blocked anyone from travelling to the district by road.

Afghanistan was the largest producer of opium in the world before poppy cultivation was banned in a decree by the Taliban supreme leader in April 2022.

Farmers have been encouraged to plant different crops, but none compete with the financial draw of the poppy, leading some to continue to discreetly cultivate small plots.

“We are poor people, all our hopes for survival are in growing poppy crops,” Jamaluddin said.

Jamaluddin said residents were hiding in their homes as of late afternoon Monday, and Taliban authorities were blocking residents from leaving the village.

The incident comes after two people were killed in clashes with Taliban authorities over poppy clearance earlier in May in Argo and Darayim districts, according to police.

The government dispatched a high-level committee to investigate the incident, and later said talks with the community had been held and calm had been restored.

Badakhshan had already been shaken last year by unrest related to poppy eradication, which resulted in one death, with similar incidents in eastern Nangarhar province.

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Agence France-Presse (AFP) is a French international news agency headquartered in Paris, France. Founded in 1835 as Havas, it is the world's oldest news agency.

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