Kandahar, June 17 : President Hamid Karzai's brother, Ahmed Wali Karzai who is the head of the Kandahar provincial council, has reportedly admitted that the Taliban fighters had seized a handful of villages in and around Kandahar and were now preparing to storm the country's second-largest city.
But, he was not sure if the Taliban militants were the same who had escaped from the Sarposa prison in last week's explosive raid.
"Everyone in Kabul is very much concerned. They have taken over there. There are also strong rumours that they will attack Kandahar city at strategic points - my house, the government's house, the police station," the globeandmail.com quoted Karzai as saying in a telephonic interview.
He also said that they were planting landmines to keep Canadian and international troops at bay.
The younger Karzai also said that the Canadian troops were playing a major role in the multinational push to keep the Taliban from advancing and were accompanied by the Afghan army and US special forces. But, their path was blocked by bombed-out culverts and land mines planted by the rebels, he added.
Karzai said the Taliban had nabbed control of several villages in the lush Arghandab river valley - just next door to Kandahar city, the birthplace of the Taliban. For now, they have set up position in small villages across the Arghandab River just west of the city, which is home to the international base where most of Canada's 2,500 troops are stationed.
Karzai said police had been sent in from Kabul to help local forces protect the volatile region, saying that everyone in Kabul was very much concerned. He, however, downplayed the threat of an attack on Kandahar city, saying that in the past too the Taliban have grabbed Arghandab villages only to lose them, and similar rumours about an attack on Kandahar have circulated before.
A tribal leader from the region warned that the militants could use the cover from Arghandab's grape and pomegranate orchards to mount an attack on the provincial capital itself. "All of Arghandab is made of orchards. The militants can easily hide and easily fight," said Haji Ikramullah Khan.
NATO General Carlos Branco said international troops were being redeployed within the region. But he confidently dismissed the notion that Kandahar city could be attacked. "No doubt about that," he said while downplaying suggestions that the Taliban had seized control of vast swaths of the district next door.