London, Jan.31 (ANI): Taliban gunmen have begun assassinating their own rank and file in a desperate bid to stop a remote mountain valley sliding from their grasp, as well as bringing in new commanders to oversee their fightback in Sangin, Afghanistan's most violent district.
According to The Independent, the gunmen are also attacking tribal elders trying to broker a peace deal between disillusioned members of the insurgency - resentful of Taliban commanders from other tribes and districts ordering them about - and government officials eager for peace.
Speaking by phone, a tribal elder in the upper Sangin valley said Taliban gunmen ambushed an elder from the Alokozai tribe called Badar Agha as he left home for morning prayers earlier this month.
Aware an attempt on his life was likely, the elder shot back with his Kalashnikov, apparently wounding an assailant before being taken to hospital for medical treatment.
Two local Taliban commanders known to be sympathetic to a détente were less fortunate. Riza Gul and Pahlawan disappeared soon after the attack on Badar Agha. "Everyone says they've been killed," the elder said.
Losing control of the upper Sangin valley would be a disaster for the Taliban proper. Not only do they get a lucrative cut of the district's drugs revenues, but the area is totemic for the number of Nato casualties there - 133 dead, and counting.
More important than either of those factors is its location. Sangin controls access to the Kajaki dam - described by one Afghan politician as a "national treasury".
Several sources said the arrival of US marines, who took responsibility for Sangin from the British last autumn and have adopted more aggressive tactics, had compounded their woes.
The locals may not believe the Marines can deliver but the taliban knows they can not win by fighting them. (ANI)