An international human rights group Sunday demanded authorities in Afghanistan prosecute militia forces linked to a top government official for recent killings and other abuses against civilians in the northern Faryab province.
The New York-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) says that its probe into the late June attack has found members of the Junbish militia loyal to First Vice President Abdul Rashid Dostum were behind the violence.
The findings are based on interviews of villagers conducted in the aftermath of the attack, it added.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also documented in its mid-year report on civilian sufferings that Afghan army and Junbish forces jointly conducted a military offensive against Taliban insurgents in Fayryab on June 26, killing at least 13 civilians and wounding 32 others.
After Taliban fighters left the area, Junbish forces entered four villages and assaulted villagers, mainly ethnic Pashtuns, accusing them of supporting the Taliban. The attack left five civilians dead and 12 others injured.
HRW officials say that some villagers told them regular Afghan military forces stood by when the Junbish members entered their villages. Although they did not participate in the assaults, they did nothing to stop them or apprehend militia fighters committing offenses, according to the report.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has reportedly ordered an investigation into the alleged abuses, and some militia members have also been detained for their suspected role.
A spokesman for Dostum’s Junbish-e-Mili Islami party rejected allegations leveled by HRW. Basher Ahmad Tayani told VOA members of the party had not been part of any operations government forces have undertaken in Faryab.
Local and foreign rights groups have long implicated Dostum, a former Afghan warlord, in war crimes, including the deaths of hundreds of Taliban prisoners in November 2001 in the custody of his militia forces.
“The killings in Faryab are the latest in a long record of atrocities by Dostum’s militia forces,” said Patricia Gossman, HRW’s senior Afghanistan researcher. “The fact that these forces, and Vice President Dostum himself, have never been held accountable, has undermined security in northern Afghanistan,” she noted.
FILE - Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (C) stands with his first vice president Abdul Rashid Dostum (L) and second vice president Sarwar Danish as they take the oath during his inauguration as president in Kabul, Sept. 29, 2014.
In response to Taliban military gains in Faryab and neighboring Sar-e-Pul provinces late last year, Dostum announced he was reactivating the Junjbish militia and has since overseen anti-insurgency military operations in the region, noted HRW in its findings.
“Militias like Junbish should have been disbanded long ago,” Gossman said. “But because such forces have powerful patrons they have continued to commit abuses with impunity.”
She again called for President Ghani to fulfill his promise to disarm all such illegal groups and ensure that they play no role in the security forces.