Taliban authorities in Afghanistan are being accused of carrying out extrajudicial killings and other human rights abuses as they attempt to quell an armed rebellion in a northern region.
The United Nations and rights watchdogs on Monday called reports of abuses in the turbulent Balkhab district in northern Sar-e Pol province alarming and demanded that the ruling Islamist group hold those responsible.
The accusations stemmed from recent Taliban military operations against loyalist-turned-rebel commander Mehdi Mujahid and his fighters in Balkhab.
Mujahid, an influential member of the Afghan ethnic minority Hazara Shi’ite community, served until recently as the Taliban’s spy chief for central Bamyan province. He was dismissed for unspecified reasons, prompting him to break away from the Sunni-based Islamist rulers.
"Amnesty International is gravely concerned by reports of summary executions and harm to civilians in Balkhab district of Sari-Pul province,” the global rights group tweeted Monday. “As the de facto authorities in Afghanistan, the Taliban has a primary responsibility to end the attacks against civilians and ensure justice and accountability."
Richard Bennett, the United Nations special rapporteur on the situation on human rights in Afghanistan, described as “disturbing” reports of extrajudicial killings, civilian displacement, property distraction and other human rights abuses in the northern district.
“Regrettably verification hampered by info blackout, internet cut & denial of access to media & HR monitors,” Bennett tweeted.
The Taliban refuted the charges as propaganda.
“The situation in Balkhab has returned to normal. No one has been oppressed or persecuted. The people are living a peaceful and safe environment. The propaganda about mistreatment of civilians or casualties is not true,” the chief Taliban spokesman tweeted Monday.
Taliban officials maintained they had reportedly dispatched several delegations to Balkhab to unsuccessfully negotiate a settlement with Mujahid before ordering last week’s military offensive against his forces
The Defense Ministry in Kabul announced on Sunday that security forces had evicted Mujahid's fighters from the district headquarters and surrounding areas, saying fleeing rebels had taken refuge in a nearby valley, and operations against them were continuing. VOA could not ascertain from independent sources the veracity of the official claims.
A video speech circulating on social media showed Mujahid among his fighters somewhere in Balkhab while one of his loyalists addressed the crowd, accusing the Taliban of sidelining Hazara Afghans from the national political space.
The insurgent-turned-ruling group seized power in Afghanistan last August as the United States and NATO partners withdrew their last troops from the country.
The Taliban installed an all-male interim Cabinet to govern the conflict-torn South Asian nation, imposing restrictions on women’s rights to work and education, and cracking down on dissent.
Critics say the new government in Kabul comprises members of the Pashtun-based Taliban group and doesn’t give representation to other Afghan ethnicities.
The lack of political inclusivity and respect for rights of all Afghans, including women, is keeping the global community from formally recognizing the Taliban as legitimate rulers of Afghanistan.
Taliban leaders reject criticism of their administration, officially called the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan, and maintain that their polices are in line with Afghan culture and Islamic tradition.