Young Boy Dies in Afghanistan After Being Trapped in a Well

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 a tragic end to a round-the-clock rescue effort led by officials at the highest levels of the country’s new government.

The boy, Haidar Jan, who was thought to be 5, fell into a roughly 85-foot-deep well on Tuesday in a village near Qalat, the capital of Zabul Province. By Thursday, rescuers had sent cameras and ropes down the barely foot-wide borehole to no avail, in a scene reminiscent of an effort in Morocco this month.

Around the time they discovered that Haidar was not moving, officials said, they began digging into the earth around the scene.

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

Anas Haqqani, the brother of Sirajuddin Haqqani, the Taliban’s acting interior minister, helped lead the rescue effort, which involved the police, public works and the Taliban’s fledgling air force. The acting defense minister, Muhammad Yaqoub, was also present to assist with commanding the operation.

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

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

Wells are commonplace in Afghanistan, with more than 70 percent of the country’s 38 million people living in rural areas. As one of the worst droughts in decades drags on into another year, Afghan farmers are digging their wells increasingly deeper to reach a quickly diminishing water table. The well into which Haidar fell on Tuesday was completely dry, Mr. Wyar said.

Eventually, excavators dug a trench into the side of the well to retrieve the boy after initial attempts to pull him out failed. Videos taken from the scene during the rescuers’ early attempts showed a claustrophobic chamber already clogged with debris and ropes.

In Afghanistan, Haidar’s plight garnered far less attention than young Rayan’s, though the Taliban seized on the opportunity to publicize their ability to marshal an effective emergency response.

The rescue of a helpless young boy also provided an opportunity to present a nuanced and attentive side of the Taliban leadership, which is regularly subject to international admonition for its hard-line religious stance and fought a violent insurgency for 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 removed from the well. The Taliban quickly circulated photographs purportedly showing Mr. Haqqani and Mr. Yaqoub, the oldest son of the Taliban’s leader, Mullah Omar, speaking with Haidar’s father.

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

Taimoor Shah contributed reporting from Kandahar.

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