Afghanistan’s Taliban said Wednesday that their security forces killed a fugitive rebel commander in a shootout near the Iranian border.
The Defense Ministry identified the slain man as Mawlawi Mehdi, who hailed from the country’s minority Shiite Hazara community and joined the Sunni-based Taliban before they seized power last year from the then-internationally backed Afghan government.
The ministry referred to Mehdi as the “leader of the rebels” in Balkhab, a coal mines-rich district in the northern province of Sar-e-Pol, saying he had fled to nearby mountains along with some of his fighters after revolting against the Taliban government.
The statement said the rebel commander was intercepted and shot dead in the western Afghan border province of Herat.
“[Mehdi] was attempting to escape to Iran when intelligence and security forces targeted him in the border area between Herat and Iran, and punished him for his actions,” the ministry wrote on Twitter without elaborating.
Mehdi’s supporters did not immediately comment on his killing.
The ethnic Hazara commander was appointed as the intelligence chief for neighboring Bamiyan province after the Taliban took over Afghanistan in August 2021.
The Taliban fired Mehdi in April for reasons not made public. He returned to his native Balkhab and organized an armed rebellion.
The Taliban sent several delegations to negotiate a peaceful settlement, but he refused, prompting them to launch a clearance operation in the district in June. The military action forced the rebels to flee to nearby mountains.
The minority Hazara community is largely based in central and northern provinces and sees itself as a politically persecuted religious group in Afghanistan.