GHAZNI CITY The Taliban have started digging gold in Maqur district of southern Ghazni province with the help of Pakistani engineers, residents said on Wednesday, but the rebels rejected the claim.
Haji Obaidullah, a tribal elder in Maqur district told Pajhwok Afghan News that the gold mine was located in Koh Band area which had been under Taliban control over the last several years.
“The Zarkashan Mountain which contains a gold mine is being dug by the Taliban with the help of Pakistani engineers,” he claimed.
Earlier, local people had revolted against the Taliban over the mining issue, but the militants pressured the people into leaving the area, the elder said.
Haji Gheyasuddin, another tribal elder of the district, said the Taliban had captured Maqur areas that contained gold mines.
“The Taliban do not want to fight in Maqur and that is the reason the district is stable,” he added.
He said the government was yet to launch any operation in areas under the Taliban in Maqur.
Noorullah, who has been displaced from Koh Band area, said: “We rose in arms against the Taliban to capture Zarkashan area from them and hand it over to the government.”
He said the government did not support them and they were forced to leave the area to the Taliban .
“The government did not help us and 150 families who lived near the Zarkashan Mountain were displaced to the center of Maqur district, now they are living here,” he said.
A number of other residents of the district held similar views.
However, the governor’s spokesman, Mohammad Arif Noori, said that the Taliban had no ability to extract gold from Zarkashan mine.
“There are no Pakistanis in the area and the mine is under no threat to be looted because extracting a mineral needs advanced machines and huge amount of money which the Taliban do not have and Pakistanis cannot bring them,” he said.
He said some specific groups were encouraging tribal elders to express such statements.
On the other hand, the Taliban confirmed extraction of the mine but rejected involvement of their members.
The group’s spokesman, Zabihullah Mujahid, said the mine was being extracted by local people.
“Taliban are not involved in extracting this mine, it is extracted by local people and we do not interfere because the people who are working there are poor,” he said.
Besides Zarkashan, mines in other parts of the country are also illegally extracted due to the government’s lack of control.