A lapis lazuli deposit in Keran Wa Manjan district in the northeastern province of Badakhshan fell to the Taliban after a clash between the security forces and the militants on Monday evening, multiple sources from the province confirmed on Wednesday.
At least 20 security force members were deployed to protect the deposit but there is no report on their fate following the militants' attack.
Many mineral deposits are located in disputed areas between the security forces and the Taliban in different parts of the country. Reports indicate that the Taliban receive a big amount of income from illegal mining.
“A mafia circle has been formed in Badakhshan which has handed the lapis lazuli deposits to the Taliban,” a lawmaker, Hujatullah Kheradmand, said.
“The lapis lazuli deposit will be a good source of income for the Taliban. The government should not remain silent,” said Raees Khaliq, an MP.
Meanwhile, President Ghani’s spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said that protecting mineral deposits in the country is the priority of the Afghan forces.
“[Afghanistan’s] natural resources are the main target for not only the Taliban, but also a big number of other terrorist groups,” Sediqqi said. “We have been protecting our national treasury.”
The incident happens three years after the Global Witness in a report in 2016 revealed the control of armed groups on Badakhshan’s lapis lazuli deposits and also said that the Taliban benefits from the illegal mining of the deposit.
The report said the Taliban and local strongmen earn up to $20 million per year from the lapis lazuli deposits.