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May 29, 2017

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Tribesmen rise up against Taliban

ALISHING, Afghanistan -- About 200 tribesmen gathered in an eastern Afghan town this week to mark what they said was an uprising against Taliban insurgents — the latest in a series of such moves, officials say.

Analysts caution that the so-called uprisings could be attempts by local militia leaders to reassert their authority ahead of the 2014 withdrawal of NATO troops supporting the government of President Hamid Karzai.

Or they could be orchestrated as part of a government strategy, they say.

But on Wednesday, in the central bazaar of Alishing, a farming district in eastern Laghman province, the tribesmen — some carrying AK-47 rifles or rocket-propelled grenades — made their intentions clear.

"We're fed up with the Taliban and their brutal aggressions against our people," a tribal elder among the protesters, Ghulam Rasoul, told AFP at the scene.

"We're standing up against them and will not allow them to oppress our people and kill our people," the turbaned elder said.

Laghman provincial administration spokesman Sarhadi Zwak told AFP that Alishing's revolt was the latest in a series of similar moves across the province northeast of Kabul.

And since mid-May, self-armed tribal militia have secured several villages in Ghazni province's Andar district south of the capital, a senior interior ministry source told AFP.

They were keeping the Taliban at bay and helped reopen dozens of schools the insurgents had closed, he said on condition of anonymity.

Although at an early stage, the revolts have worried the insurgents.

"Taliban fighters used to control most of the provinces, but now they are losing ground in areas like Helmand, Kunduz and more recently Kandahar, Zabul and Ghazni," a midlevel Taliban source told AFP in Pakistan.

"They lost ground to tribal militias because they don't let people access basic services, especially school," said the source, who belongs to the militants' political wing and travels regularly between Pakistan and Afghanistan.

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