HELMAND, Afghanistan -- A group fighting undercover against the Taliban in Helmand Province, Afghanistan, is causing fear and turmoil among militant fighters.
The "Sangorian" group -- named after a Turkish television drama about undercover operatives -- comprises local residents and has the support of the Afghan government.
Members of the group look like Taliban militants -- they have long beards, wear black turbans in the style of the Taliban and are equipped with light and heavy weapons.
The Sangorian group was created with the support of the National Directorate of Security (NDS) in January 2016 and now fights in Lashkargah, the capital of Helmand Province, as well as in Nad-e-Ali, Gereshk and Nawa districts.
"As long as we have a drop of blood in our bodies, we will fight the hypocrite Taliban for the sake of Allah," Ezatullah Mujahid, commander of the Sangorian group in the Mukhtar area of Lashkargah, told Salaam Times.
"All civilians co-operate with us. We have [tribal] elders and former mujahideen with us," he said.
"Our only purpose is to eliminate the enemies of the country -- the slaves of Iran, the children of Russians. I want neither the position of general nor that of colonel -- I just want to serve my people."
A 'big headache' for the Taliban
The Sangorian group has proved itself not only in strengthening security but also in sowing mistrust among Taliban fighters.
Taliban fighters are terribly afraid of this group, said Hayatullah Jamal, a tribal elder from Lashkargah.
"The Taliban do not get any comfort even for a single night anywhere in Helmand because of the Sangorian group," he told Salaam Times.
"It has been two years now, and we have not seen any bad treatment from [the Sangorian group]," he said. "They have not disturbed any civilians, nor have they taken money from civilians."
"They have brought much security. We are happy with them," he said. "Those who propagandise against [the Sangorians] are agents of the militants."
"Since the Sangorians have arrived and deployed here, the Taliban have been stopped," Mohammad Zarif Barakzai, 53, a resident of Lashkargah, told Salaam Times. "The group is a big headache for the Taliban, and it has caused trouble for them everywhere."
"Because the Taliban harassed many civilians and because they have achieved nothing other than destruction ... the public has stood by its security forces," Mohammad Wali Barak, a shopkeeper in Nawa District, told Salaam Times.
"The Sangorians were able to force out the Taliban from many areas," he said.
"The Sangorian group ... struggled day and night to crush the Taliban here in Gereshk, and they beat the enemy," said Abdul Khaliq, a tribal elder and chairman of the district council's defence committee.
"Now the enemy is scared, and it cannot sleep in ease," he told Salaam Times. "It cannot freely function again."
Taliban broken, crushed
The Sangorian group has taken out of the fight a number of prominent Taliban members who are now in government custody, an NDS official in Helmand told Salaam Times on the condition of anonymity.
"This group destroyed a number of notorious Taliban groups in Nawzad, Washir, Musa Qala and Nad-e-Ali districts in face-to-face battles," he said. "Four prominent Taliban members were arrested in Musa Qala District on May 10, and now they are in custody."
"The group has broken the backbone of the Taliban, and now the Taliban do not trust each other," he said.
"The Sangorian group has protected areas and crushed the insurgents," Omar Zwak, spokesman for the Helmand provincial governor, told Salaam Times.
"The Sangorians have [helped] national security forces, fought face to face against the Taliban in remote areas and achieved good results," he said.