Kabul looted as order disintegrates

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SATURDAY SEPTEMBER 22 2001 Afghanistan Kabul looted as order disintegrates BY STEPHEN FARRELL AS THOUSANDS of nervous Afghans flee Kabul and other big towns, reports have emerged of looting in the capital as law and order begins to break down. Kabul residents have for months complained that armed robbers posing as members of the Taleban’s religious police, the Ministry for the Prevention of Vice and Promotion of Virtue, have raided their houses with impunity, carrying off banned television sets and other valuables.

Aid agencies also fear that the evacuation of their foreign staff after last week’s attacks on America will provide the opportunity for the Taleban to seize their four-wheel drive vehicles and two-way radios left behind in the rush. Some had already taken precautions in recent weeks, putting away crucial equipment for safekeeping as relations with the regime began to deteriorate.

One Kabul resident said that a home in his suburb was raided by six armed men on Tuesday. “A car with at least six armed men parked outside our neighbour’s house, but we thought they were probably relatives,” he said. “There was a big shout after the robbers’ car disappeared. My neighbour said they took all their valuables. We could not have helped them even if we knew that the men were thieves because they were armed.”

Away from the prying eyes of minders who accompany all foreign journalists around Afghanistan, Afghans have been sidling up to visitors in recent months complaining that security has broken down in suburbs of the capital, with armed men arriving in four-wheel drive vehicles and making off with possessions.

Many Afghans are convinced the robbers are themselves Taleban, because they alone are allowed to carry weapons, and it is unlikely that rival Mujahidin groups could penetrate so far into the suburbs of the capital without the omnipresent security services finding out. “We know they are Taleban. When we go to report them to officials they simply tell us to find out the names of the suspects so that they can arrest them. That is their job, but no one is going to argue with them,” one said.

One experienced international worker said it was a sign that Taleban internal discipline had begun breaking down. “In the beginning they recruited zealots who believed in the cause, but as time went on and they took casualties in the fight against the Northern Alliance their need for manpower meant they became less choosy and began taking people who are essentially no more than gangsters,” he said.

Another said last night that a senior Taleban figure confided to him recently: “The Taleban have not become thieves. Thieves have become Taleban.”


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), September 22, 2001

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