On June 14th, 2022, Taliban Commander Qari Salahuddin sent more than 200 fighters into Bakhlab in order to displace disgraced Hazara Commander Maulavi Mehdi Mujahid.
The Taliban sacked Mujahid from his position as Intelligence Directorate Leader for Bamiyan Province after he reportedly announced he had evidence that the Haqqani Netowrk was responsible for carrying out attacks against Shia Mosques throughout the country. The predominantly Sunni Taliban reportedly despised the presence of the only Hazara Commander in a position of power and were jockeying for his removal after consolidation in Kabul in September of 2021. There have been more than a dozen attacks this year, killing more than 100 civilians. The Hazara ethnicity in Afghanistan has been extremely impoverished since the Afghan War of ’78 and have been targeted by the Taliban due to their Shia practices and close ties to Iran.
Mujahid was reportedly offered a bureaucratic job in Kabul, but refused, instead opting to raise his own force in Balkhab and rule with local power. After sharp clashes on June 14th on the North and South borders of Balkhab, Afghan Deputy Spokesperson Samangani attempted to negotiate with Mahdi, but failed, resulting in a renewed offensive which has brought the ire of the Islamic Unity Party for reportedly waging an ethnic war against the Hazaras. The abundance of coal mining in the Balkhab District of Sar-e Pol province has also raised eye brows as this move is being seen as the Taliban’s attempt to permanently seize the valuable mines.
Heavy fighting was reported throughout the week, especially on June 23rd when the Taliban inserter several dozen troops via helicopter and reportedly deployed the Mansoor Brigade which used suicide bombers to target civilians and military infrastructure of the Balkhab People’s Forces (BPF). Taliban Chief of Staff Qari Fasihuddin also deployed with those troops to take command of the effort. Between June 22nd and 24th alone, more than 20 Taliban militants, 20 BPF, and at least an equal amount of civilians were killed.
On the evening of June 24th into the morning of the 25th, Taliban tac-air assets conducted airstrikes on BPF positions as ground forces conducted a seven pronged assault on the city, forcing forces loyal to Mujahid to retreat. Those forces fled into the mountains as Taliban fighters have been consolidating their gains and reportedly exploiting the civilian population.
Mujahid claimed the Taliban took 50 civilians hostage , destroyed his home, killed the Dara-i-Suf district governor for “not fighting correctly”, and executed several civilians. 8 members of the BPF surrendered on the morning of June 26th and were promptly executed. The Taliban fighters seized the police station and the local administrative center, setting up for the arrival of two security units from Kabul, meant to stem the spread of ethnic violence. Those units will go to Bayman and Wardak provinces.
The Taliban has resportedly killed 15 ethnic Hazaras in the villages of Khawal, Siaghak, Tarakhj, Dehneh, and Pai Chenar since Saturday and Sunday.