Afghan villagers attack Taliban rebels

Villagers attacked Taliban rebels who had blockaded a road and were confiscating music cassettes from passing cars in southern Afghanistan, officials said Tuesday. Two militants and a villager were killed. After seizing and breaking the cassettes, the insurgents informed travelers that music is forbidden by Islam, said Abdul Wasai, the government chief in Spin Boldak district, where the fighting occurred Monday.

The Taliban used the same claim to justify destroying thousands of music cassettes and videos while the militia held power from 1996 to 2001. Ten militants had seized dozens of cassettes from travelers before the villagers attacked, Wasai said. The militants were also searching for anyone linked to the country's U.S.-backed government, but none was found.

Seven villagers and two rebels were also wounded in the fighting and police later arrested the insurgents. The rest fled across the nearby border into Pakistan, he said. The militants had earlier gone to the village and demanded food, a common occurrence in southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan, where the rebels are strongest.

It is unusual for villagers to launch attacks against the Taliban, especially in areas along the Pakistan frontier where there is a lot of militant activity and the insurgents are most likely to carry out reprisals.

The violence occurred close to the site of a Jan. 16 suicide bombing that killed 21 civilians at a wrestling match. It was the deadliest such attack since the Taliban was ousted and sparked nationwide protests against the militia.

While the Taliban enjoy support from some villages in southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan because of ethnic and religious similarities, many people are opposed to their hard-line policies, such as their ban on music and education for girls, reports the AP. I.L.

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