Fighting broke out between the Taliban* and Mawlawi Mahdi forces in the Balkhab district of the Afghan province of Saripul. The Taliban deployed hundreds of fighters from all sides to fight the Mahdi, their Hazara commander, who had broken with the group.

Source: Sputnik Tajikistan

Anti-Taliban leaders such as Ahmad Masoud, Mohammad Mohaqqeq, Ustad Atomuhammad Nur, Abdurshid Dostum, and others have reportedly declared their support for the Mahdi forces.

Saidalim Kazemi, a close associate of the Mahdi, told Sputnik Tajikistan that fierce fighting took place in the northern part of the Duzdandara part of the Khamkutal area and in the western part of Obi Kalan, where the Taliban suffered the first losses.

“The fighting began at 9 am in Khamkutal. The resistance forces dealt a hard blow, causing the Taliban to retreat to the Guri Qazi area. Six Taliban were killed. In the Khatbakhshi region in the Obi Kalon area, between the Balkhab and Sancharak districts, the Taliban were also repulsed. The bodies of three Taliban were left on the field. But residents of Obi Kalon say the death toll rises to 20. One dahshaka (DShK) and two Taliban rangers became the trophies of the resistance fighters. A Taliban Homeway tank crashed in Aibulaq village, Darai Suf district, killing six Taliban,” Kazemi said.

According to him, the Taliban are currently besieging Balkhab from four sides: north - Sangcharak and Gusfandi (Saripul province) and Zare and Kishandeh (Balkh), west - Kuhistanat (Saripul), east - Darai Sufi Bolo (Samangan) and south, Yakovlang (Bamiyan) districts.

“We blocked all the entrances to Balkhab with bulldozers and blew up some places so that the Taliban forces and other terrorist organizations could not enter the area. All entrance gates are covered by our forces,” Kazemi said.

Regarding the number of troops under the command of the Mahdi, which according to previous information was estimated at 400 people, Sayyidalim Kazemi says that with the arrival of reinforcements from the provinces of Bamiyan, Ghor, Daikundi, and other neighbor provinces their number has reached 4,000 people.

“In the nearby areas of the provinces of Samangan and Balkh, there are also forces of the Islamic Unity Party of Muhammad Muhaqqiq and the Islamic Movement of Sayyid Mustafa Kazemi, the Resistance Front of Ahmad Massoud, the Islamic Jamiat of Atamuhammad Nur, and the National Movement of Abdurashid Dostum. All these leaders contacted the Mahdi and declared their support,” Kazemi said.

According to various reports from various sources, the Taliban sent about 6,000 fighters to Balhab under the command of Qari Fasihuddin (in the photo), the chief of staff from the east and south, and Mullah Fazel, the Taliban deputy defense minister, from the north and west.

Mawlawi Mahdi was the only high-ranking Hazara Taliban, head of the Bamiyan intelligence and head of the Balkhab administration, who left the group a month ago due to his dismissal. Several Taliban delegations from Kabul failed to bring him back into the Taliban through negotiations. Mahdi urged the Taliban to respect the rights of the Hazaras and Shiites, at least to transfer state power to the Hazaras in the Hazara provinces and districts.

The Taliban government does not have a Hazara minister, and the group does not recognize Shiite Islam, which was official during the republic.

Balkhab, Mawlawi Mahdi's main base, was also an anti-Taliban front during the First Resistance (1996–2001). At that time, the group failed to completely capture the area. It seems that today's events are once again turning him into a serious problem for the Taliban.

According to observers, the war in Balkhab will actually break the silence of the anti-Taliban forces in northern Afghanistan, turning it into the second hotbed of resistance after the Hindu Kush.

On the other hand, there are fears that a religious war will break out in the region, Seyyid Arif Husseini, one of the representatives of the region's intelligentsia, told Sputnik Tajikistan.

“The Balkhab district, the provinces of Saripul, and the entire province of Bamiyan are inhabited mainly by Hazaras and Shiites. Now there are fears that a Sunni-Shia war will break out because the Taliban like the Wahhabis - Salafis do not recognize the Shiites. According to the information, adherents of the Salafi ideology - Al-Qaeda* and ISIS*, which are present in the mountains of the provinces of Jazzhan, Faryab, and Saripul and are under the control of the Haqqani Network, have also been sent to the region," Husseini said.

Balkhab is one of the 7 districts of the Saripul province. It has 128 villages, and its center is the village of Tarkhodzh. Of the three, two parts of the 100,000th population of the region are Hazaras, and the rest are Tajiks, Uzbeks, and Sadats (saidzada are the descendants of the prophet). The Hazaras, Tajiks, and Sadats of the Balkhab region, in turn, are Shiites.

According to observers, Balkhab is outside the control of the Taliban and is the first free area from this group, and this can be considered the beginning of the defeat of the Taliban in the north, but with the opening of this node, a difficult situation has arisen, as a result of which, in addition to anti-Taliban, the Taliban will enter the scene with their allies - Al-Qaeda and ISIS.

This can serve as proof of those assertions that with the destabilization of the north of Afghanistan there are serious threats to the southern borders of Central Asia and the CIS. And the beginning of all this is today's fighting in Balkhab.

* The organization is under UN sanctions or banned due to terrorist activities