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Rights Groups Protest Afghan Executions

International human rights groups are calling on Afghanistan to halt its use of the death penalty, after authorities executed eight prisoners.

President Hamid Karzai approved the Tuesday executions for crimes including murder, kidnapping and rape. Afghan officials say eight more prisoners are set to die in the coming days.

Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International expressed concerns about the ability of the Afghan justice system to ensure fair trials. Both groups oppose the death penalty in all cases.

The European Union's mission in Afghanistan also says it has serious concerns about the executions and called on Afghan officials to institute a moratorium on capital punishment.

In a statement Wednesday, the Afghan Taliban said it had reports that some of its imprisoned fighters are facing execution, and promised "heavy repercussion" for lawmakers, courts and Afghan officials if such sentences were carried out.

Executions were common in Afghanistan under the rule of Taliban, which put people to death for murder and adultery. The use of the death penalty has been rare in Afghanistan since the Taliban fell from power in 2001.

Also Wednesday, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a suicide bombing near a NATO base in Kabul that killed two Afghan security guards and wounded five civilians.

The blast hit an area near Camp Eggers in a section of Kabul that houses NATO coalition headquarters as well as foreign embassies. The attack prompted alarms at the U.S. Embassy.

NATO said the blast damaged one of its vehicles, but that there were no reports of casualties among coalition troops.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP and Reuters.

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