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Taliban Committing 'Revenge Killings' Against Former Afghan Security Forces, Says HRW

A Taliban fighter stands as he guards a checkpoint in Kabul, Afghanistan Nov. 27, 2021.
A Taliban fighter stands as he guards a checkpoint in Kabul, Afghanistan Nov. 27, 2021.

Taliban forces have carried out more than 100 summary executions and forced disappearances in just four Afghan provinces, in a series of revenge attacks since the militant group seized power in August following the withdrawal of Western forces, according to Human Rights Watch.

The attacks were documented in Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar, and Kunduz provinces between August and the end of October, but it’s believed such incidents have occurred across Afghanistan.

“They were targeting the people they had fought with. And many of the cases we investigated were people really on the front lines, people who were known to the Taliban in particular localities,” said report author Patricia Gossman, in an interview with VOA.

Rights Group: Taliban Committing ‘Revenge Killings’ Against Former Afghan National Security Forces
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She said the attacks have taken place despite Taliban promises that they would not seek revenge.

“They offered an amnesty; they have claimed this from their senior officials in Kabul. But what we see on the ground is in fact it doesn’t apply, at least for some people. They are deliberately going after people either based on personal relationships and enmities or because of the role they played,” Gossman said.

Researchers gathered evidence from 67 in-person and telephone interviews with witnesses, relatives, former government officials and Taliban officials.

Employment records

The report says the Taliban used employment records left behind by the former government to identify people for arrest and execution.

“What started out maybe as a kind of rush maybe of initial revenge killings in the first weeks, now seems to be much more deliberate. It’s spread to other provinces and it seems part of maybe a strategy to ensure that there isn’t any opposition remobilizing against them,” Gossman told VOA.

Human Rights Watch notes that the Taliban leadership directed members of surrendering Afghan National Security Force (ANSF) units to register with them in order to receive a letter guaranteeing their safety. “However, the Taliban have used these screenings to detain and summarily execute or forcibly disappear individuals within days of their registration, leaving their bodies for their relatives or communities to find,” the report says.

It cites the death of Baz Muhammad, who had been employed in Kandahar province by the National Directorate of Security (NDS), the former Afghan state intelligence agency.

“Around September 30, Taliban forces came to his house in Kandahar city and arrested him; relatives later found his body. The murder, about 45 days after the Taliban had taken over the country, suggests that senior officials ordered or were at least aware of the killing,” the report says.

FILE - A Taliban fighter searches a man at a checkpoint in Kabul, Afghanistan November 5, 2021.
FILE - A Taliban fighter searches a man at a checkpoint in Kabul, Afghanistan November 5, 2021.

Night raids

Human Rights Watch accused previous Afghan governments of using enforced disappearances against their opponents, including Taliban fighters and supporters. They accuse the Taliban of engaging in similar tactics. “[They] have also engaged in abusive search operations, including night raids, to apprehend and, at times, forcibly disappear suspected former civilian and security force officials,” according to the report.

It also accuses the Taliban of targeting people they accuse of supporting the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISKP), an affiliate of the Islamic State terror group.

Taliban response

The Taliban told Human Rights Watch that they have dismissed those responsible for abuses but did not provide any further details or evidence.

In a speech aired on state media Saturday, the Taliban’s Mullah Mohammed Hassan Akhund - who claims to be Afghanistan’s prime minister - accused former government officials of stirring up trouble.

“Nation, be vigilant. Those left over from the previous government in hiding are making remarks and are causing anxiety, misleading the people to distrust their government. Nation, be vigilant, that the enemy does not overrun us again, defiant of our holy government, our security,” Akhund said.

Human Rights Watch is calling for continued United Nations scrutiny and investigation of abuses committed by the Taliban.

Humanitarian disaster

The United States, the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund froze Afghan central bank assets worth $9.5 billion and blocked cash shipments to the country after the Taliban forcibly seized power on August 15 from the internationally recognized government of President Ashraf Ghani.

Aid agencies warn of an impending humanitarian disaster with millions unpaid or out of work, basic services on the brink of collapse, and many Afghans forced to flee their homes.

“We fear and predict that up to 23 million Afghans will be in crisis or [need] emergency levels of food insecurity. This will likely worsen indeed over the winter,” Deborah Lyons, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, warned earlier in November.