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'We are in danger': French Army translators left behind to Taliban

China Daily | Updated: 2017-11-30 07:09

KABUL - The Taliban have tried to kill Zainullah, a former translator for the French Army, twice already, he says, warning that the insurgents have expanded their territory in Afghanistan to just five minutes from his door.

He and fellow translators who once aided international forces say they are increasingly fearful, with the Taliban now controlling or influencing some 40 percent of Afghanistan's 407 districts.

"We are in danger," said another, Bashir, who served the French Army for four years. "Nobody knows when but it's going to happen one day, for the situation is getting worse. They will get us."

Last Wednesday, Zainullah was wounded in a suicide motorcycle attack in front of his home just north of Kabul, as he spoke to a NATO patrol.

One of the soldiers was killed, and several others wounded. Zainullah, 28, said he was sure the bomber had wanted to kill two birds with one stone: the Westerners, and him.

'We are in danger': French Army translators left behind to Taliban

It was their second attempt, he said. In June he received a threatening phone call and, shortly after, was shot in his garden by two gunmen on motorbikes.

More telephone threats have followed, voices speaking to him in the accents of Kandahar, the Taliban's birthplace in Afghanistan's south.

Previously he felt safe at home. "There were no Taliban here. Now they are in the (neighboring) village," just a five-minute drive away.

Zainullah spoke to the police. He displayed the official complaint he made, stored in a plastic bag with his translator contracts and pay stubs from the NATO-controlled International Security Assistance Force.

He even has his access badges to the French bases in Kabul and in Surobi.

"The district police chief told me, 'We know you've been targeted but we can't protect you. We don't have enough guards. You are not high-profile people.' He was sorry," Zainullah said.

Embattled police are themselves increasingly targeted in devastating attacks and short on time and resources.

"Of course, we don't have enough forces to protect every individual but we are doing our best," says Abdul Fatah, a senior police official in Kapisa, an unstable province north of the capital where French troops once had a heavy presence.

He spoke generally as he was not involved in Zainullah's case.

Hajji Mirdad Mijrabi, an MP for Kapisa, confirmed the climate of fear.

"Almost all the interpreters had to take their families out of the provinces to live in Kabul and in city centers, where they are jobless ... They hardly survive in the cities," he said.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Paris said it was "attentive to the individual situation" of its former employees.

But for Zainullah, the Taliban have spelled the danger out to him very clearly in their attacks and phone calls.

"'You are my target,'" he said one militant told him in a phone call. "I will get you."

Agence France-presse

(China Daily 11/30/2017 page10)

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