Taliban security forces in eastern Afghanistan have extrajudicially killed dozens of suspected members and supporters of a local affiliate of the Islamic State terrorist group, according to Human Rights Watch.
The global human rights group has documented the alleged abuses in a report released Thursday, saying they were committed in eastern Nangarhar and Kunar provinces.
“Since the Taliban took power in August 2021, residents of Nangahar and Kunar … have discovered the bodies of more than 100 men dumped in canals and other locations [between August 2021 and April 2022],” the report said.
The two provinces, which border Pakistan, are known for hosting active bases of the Islamic State of Khorasan Province (ISIS-K), the Afghan affiliate of Islamic State.
Taliban forces in these areas had “carried out abusive search operations” against residents they accused of sheltering or supporting ISIS-K members, according to the report.
During these security actions, including night raids, residents allegedly had been subjected to torture and men detained without legal process or revealing their whereabouts to their families.
“Taliban authorities appear to have given their forces free rein to detain, ‘disappear,’ and kill alleged militants,” said Patricia Gossman, the associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch.
The bodies showed evidence of torture and brutal executions: some had missing limbs, ropes around their necks, or had been beheaded or had slit throats, according to the report.
Chief Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid rejected the report as baseless, saying local authorities had investigated these “rumors” but found not a single body in Nangarhar or other areas.
“The propaganda being spread by some well-known international organizations in this regard is disturbing and unfortunate,” Mujahid wrote on Twitter.
Human Rights Watch said while working with a local partner, it interviewed — mostly in person — 63 people between October 2021 and June 2022 for the report. The watchdog claimed to have found “substantial evidence of summary executions and “enforced disappearances” by Taliban forces of suspected ISIS-K supporters.
In November, a United Nations Security Council meeting on Afghanistan was also informed the Taliban’s campaign against ISIS-K “appears to rely heavily on extra-judicial detentions and killings.”
Afghanistan has experienced a spike in ISIS-K-plotted bombings since the Taliban takeover, particularly targeting Hazara, Shiite and other minority communities in the country. The violence has killed hundreds of people, including security forces.
Taliban authorities have regularly conducted retaliatory raids against ISIS-K hideouts in Kabul and elsewhere in the country. The latest such operation was carried out Wednesday night in the Afghan capital, where Mujahid claimed it killed two ISIS-K militants and arrested several others.
“The ISKP’s numerous atrocities do not justify the Taliban’s horrific response,” HRW’s Gossman said, using a local acronym for the terrorist group. “Taliban forces have repeatedly carried out summary executions and other war crimes against people in their custody and have yet to hold those responsible to account.”