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A young boy dies in Afghanistan after being trapped in a well

KABUL, Afghanistan – A young boy died on Friday after being trapped in a well for several days in southern Afghanistan, Taliban officials said, heralding the tragic end of a round-the-clock rescue effort led by officials at the highest levels of the country. new government.

The boy, Haidar Jan, believed to be 5, fell into a well about 25 meters deep in a village near Qalat, the capital of Zabul province, on Tuesday. On Thursday, rescuers had unsuccessfully sent cameras and ropes down the barely a foot wide borehole, in a scene reminiscent of an effort in Morocco earlier this month.

The moment they discovered Haidar was not moving, officials said, they began digging into the dirt around the scene.

“Zabul officials, in coordination with Kabul officials and the Zabul municipality, worked for approximately 70 hours and used various tools and equipment to rescue the child,” said Sharafat Wyar, head of the Department of information and culture of Zabul. “When the child was rescued from the well, he was alive for a short time, but after a while he died.”

Anas Haqqani, the brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s acting interior minister, helped lead the rescue effort, which involved police, public works and the Taliban’s fledgling air force. Acting Defense Minister Muhammad Yaqoub was also present to help command the operation.

Haidar’s death comes just weeks after efforts to save a 5-year-old boy in Morocco, Rayan Oram, captivated people around the world after he plunged into a well in his own small village.

The operation in Morocco to save Rayan, also deceased, was accompanied by days of vigils and live internet broadcasts that followed the rescue effort with thousands of viewers.

Wells are commonplace in Afghanistan, where more than 70% of the country’s 38 million people live in rural areas. As one of the worst droughts in decades drags on into another year, Afghan farmers are digging their wells deeper and deeper to reach a rapidly declining water table. The pit Haidar fell into on Tuesday was completely dry, Wyar said.

Eventually the excavators dug a trench in the side of the shaft to retrieve the boy after initial attempts to pull him out failed. Videos taken at the scene during the first attempts by rescuers showed a claustrophobic chamber already clogged with debris and ropes.

In Afghanistan, Haidar’s fate has attracted much less attention than that of young Rayan, although the Taliban have seized the opportunity to publicize their ability to mount an effective emergency response.

The rescue of a helpless young boy was also an opportunity to showcase a nuanced and watchful side of the Taliban leadership, which regularly faces international warnings for its tough religious stance and has fought a violent insurgency for decades. decades before taking power last year.

“It is with regret that Haidar Jan left us forever”, Anas Haqqani said on Twitter shortly after the boy was pulled from the well. The Taliban quickly circulated photographs purporting to show Mr. Haqqani and Mr. Yaqoub, the eldest son of Taliban leader Mullah Omar, talking with Haidar’s father.

The public relations blitz followed weeks of headlines and international outcry accusing the Taliban of abducting several female activists who protested after women’s rights were rolled back under the banner of strict Islamic law. The Taliban denied abducting the women although they were eventually released.

Taimoor Shah contributed to reporting from Kandahar.

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