On March 03, residents of Herat’s Jebrael neighborhood became shocked all of a sudden after a large number of armed forces conducted an eight-hour-long military operation to arrest Habibullah Ghoryani, a local strongman who was accused of interfering in the private business of a restaurant owner in the area. The operation conducted by government forces left two of Ghoryani’s security guards killed and 41 others, including civilians, wounded. Following the operation, Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) issued a statement in which it blamed the security forces for misusing their power.
Juma Khan Akhlaqi, a resident of the area, said that he along with a number of local elders went to mediate between the government forces and Ghoryani on the day of the operation but the security forces took them hostage and used them as a shield against the Ghoryani. “We entered in Ghoryani’s house to talk to them. We were there as three rockets hit the house, government forces entered into the house, and arrested us.”
Herat police, however, denies the allegation of using people as a human shield. Abdul Ahad Walizada, the spokesperson for Herat police, says those criminals who disrupt security use people and their houses as a shield.
Sayed Amin, a resident of the area, has lost one of his fingers to conflict. He lambasts the local government, criticizing the security forces for such a military operation in a residential area. “The government does not need to bring tanks to detain one person.”
On the day of the military operation, Asadullah, 13, fell victim to the shooting. A bullet hit his leg. His family, though is in a poor state of finances, has spent almost 30,000 afghanis for his medical treatment.
Mohammad Rafiq Sherzai, the spokesman for Herat public health directorate, confirmed to Kabul Now that 41 people including a woman and three children, were wounded as a result of the military operation conducted by the security forces in the densely populated Jebrael. Nine of the 41 wounded people are civilians, according to this local health official.
Ghoryani, however, claimed that six people were killed and 94 others wounded in the military operation conducted under the command of the Herat governor.
Khodadad, 30, who is a resident of Jebrael, says his wife was pregnant and she lost her baby unborn due to the shock inflicted by the military operation. “On the night of [military] operation, scary as it was, my wife aborted our baby.”
Holes created by rocket shelling and bullets are visible on the walls and gate of Tahera’s house. She recalls the scene of a horrific clash fought between Ghoryani’s men and security forces. “It was around 10:30 PM when the government forces stormed our house. They broke into our house and shot one person in the head and another person in his body,” Tahera told Kabul Now in an exclusive interview for this story. She says the government forces scared her children.
The spokesperson for the Herat police claims that Ghoryani’s men opened fire at police forces and ‘defenseless’ people on the day of the incident and in an act of self-defense policemen opened fire at them, killing two of them.
The local government accuses Habibullah Ghoryani of having hands in drug trafficking and murder, an accusation he denies, saying that he would hand over himself to law and security institutions if the government was proved right. “If I run a private prison, how could they fail to find out its location during their operation? Being Hazara is my only sin,” Ghoryani told Kabul Now.
He gives a seven-day ultimatum to the Herat governor to make a public apology, otherwise, he says he will rally a protest against the local government. “On the day of the incident, I had a telephonic conversation with Mr. Qatali; I asked him to stop operation and do not kill and wound civilians. He agreed to stop operation and in return demanded me meet him in Bagh-e-Melat but [on the ground] he acted contrary to his promise.”
A statement issued by Herat’s governor office regrets civilian causality and urges to compensate the victims and those who suffered property damage.
Following the operation, a delegation, comprised of local officials and elders from Jebrael, was appointed to assess financial damages inflicted by the military operation.
The AIHRC condemned the military operation in the residential Jebrael area, calling for a fair investigation into the incident.