Stranded people gather at the Pakistani border town of Chaman on July 14 after the Taliban claimed they had captured the Afghan side of the border crossing of Spin Boldak along the frontier with Pakistan. Photo: AFP / Banaras Khan

Soon after capturing a key border crossing into Pakistan, scores of Taliban fighters rampaged through the town, looting homes and seizing vehicles of government officials who had fled, according to local residents. 

“The Taliban are roaming on motorbikes and cars through the bazaar,” Sanaullah, a resident of the Spin Boldak border town along the frontier with Pakistan, told AFP by telephone on Thursday.

“Homes of government officials are being looted,” she said. “It is like they were waiting for two decades to seek revenge.”

A spokesman for the Taliban said the claims were not true.

The insurgents took control of the town that provides direct access to Pakistan’s Balochistan province on Wednesday, the latest in a string of border crossings the insurgents have seized in recent weeks.

Taliban supporters posted photos they said were from the Afghan side of the border, showing insurgents installing the movement’s flags on top of buildings.

Others were seen in abandoned homes, with furniture and clothes strewn everywhere, including the house of former anti-Taliban police commander General Abdul Raziq, who was assassinated in the southern province of Kandahar in 2018. 

It was not possible to independently verify the images.

The Taliban fighters have been accused of looting Afghan army and police bases during their assault across the country in recent weeks.

In other seized towns, residents have reported that the Taliban swiftly returned to their harsh interpretation of Islamic rule putting restrictions on girls’ education and stopping women from leaving their homes. 

‘Opportunists are waiting’

Residents of Spin Boldak said almost all homes of government officials were being targeted.

“The Taliban fighters have looted almost all the houses of government officials and, afterward, even some residents came and looted them,” Jawed, a car mechanic, told AFP by phone. 

“Even armored vehicles were destroyed.”

Residents and traders said Taliban fighters tried to encourage residents not to flee, as the chaos unfolded. 

“Using loudspeakers, the Taliban assured people that there would be no problem from their side and that there was no need to abandon their homes,” Abdul Wali, a shopkeeper told AFP.

Dozens of pick-up trucks belonging to the Taliban were parked in Spin Boldak’s main market on Thursday as groups of insurgents moved across the area, said Wali, one of the few shopkeepers who had decided to open.

Most had shuttered their businesses out of fear. 

“The traders are scared that the situation will turn bad,” Mohammad Rasoul, a trader told AFP.

“They fear that their products will be looted. There are scores of opportunists waiting.”

A spokesman for Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry confirmed that the Taliban has seized the Afghan side of the border.

Officials swiftly closed the Chaman crossing on the Pakistan side, leaving scores of trucks and hundreds of Afghan traders stranded on the Pakistani side of the border.

It later reopened but only to pedestrians, a border official said.

“The Taliban have told the traders that they were in contact with authorities on the Pakistani side to reach an agreement and open the crossing,” said Haji Hasti Mohammad, a trader on the Afghan side of the frontier.

He said fresh fruit traders were particularly restless about the border turmoil.

“This is the only trade route in southern Afghanistan. We are waiting,” said Mohammad.