According to a new report from Human Rights Watch, more than 100 former members of Afghan security forces in four provinces have been killed or disappeared in the first two and a half months of the Taliban’s rule by militants.
The deaths across Afghanistan are part of a string of killings and summary executions, widely regarded as revenge killings, since the fall of Ashraf Ghani’s government in August.
The attacks underscore the dangers of Taliban critics, activists and members of the former government’s security forces, despite the Taliban’s announcement when they seized the power of a general amnesty for former government employees and military officials.
In a report released Tuesday, Human Rights Watch details the killing and forcible disappearances of 47 members of former government security forces who either surrendered to the Taliban or were killed by them between August 15 and October 31. countries were detained. 34 Provinces: Ghazni, Helmand, Kandahar and Kunduz.
The group’s research indicates that the Taliban is responsible for the deaths or disappearances of at least 53 former security force members in a single province.
“As promised by the Taliban leadership, the apology has not prevented local commanders from simply killing or disappearing former members of the Afghan security force,” said Human Rights Watch Associate Asia Director Patricia Gossman. “The onus is on the Taliban to prevent further killings, to apprehend those responsible and to pay compensation to the families of the victims.”
Ms Gossman said the killings had evolved into a more “deliberate” attempt to crush dissidents and those who could pose a threat to the new government and that the Taliban leader was “apologizing” for the atrocities.
The Taliban have a long history of targeting security forces and former government officials, as well as activists, journalists and the elderly. Notably in the 18 months before the takeover, the Taliban launched an assassination campaign against journalists, government and military activists, and civil society leaders, although they rarely claimed responsibility for the deaths.
But the recent brief executions and killings have raised new fears as they took place despite assurances from senior Taliban leaders that the new government would not seek retaliation against members of the former government and the military.
Score settlements and blood feuds have marked Afghanistan’s last four decades of conflict, often at the local and family level.
Afghanistan under Taliban rule
With the departure of US forces on August 30, Afghanistan quickly came back under Taliban control. There is widespread concern about the future across the country.
A Taliban spokesman told The New York Times that some fighters may have taken the law into their own hands to settle old accounts, but the killings and disappearances were not Taliban policy. Spokesman Inamulla Samangani said the government was “seriously investigating” such incidents to identify the perpetrators and bring them to justice.
“We are fully committed to announcing the apology,” Mr Samangani said in a phone interview. “We don’t have any security arrangements yet, and some people are taking advantage of this void, abusing the name of the Islamic Emirate, and committing such killings.”
He added: “The killings for revenge are not in the interest of our government. They are damaging to the reputation of the Islamic emirate at this critical time.”
The killings raise concerns that Taliban leaders may have little control over lower-ranked commanders and foot soldiers, who are believed to have been behind most of the forced disappearances and executions.
Among the Afghans whose death was documented by Human Rights Watch was a man named Dadullah, who worked for only a few months as a police officer in the city of Kandahar, then quit his job and crossed the border with Pakistan. Near Spin began to live in the town of Boldak. Taliban takeover.
Dadullah had returned to Kandahar city last month. Two men believed to be members of the Taliban picked him up on 23 October and his body was sent home in an ambulance later that evening.
“We took the body to the governor’s house, but the Taliban didn’t tell us anything and didn’t allow us to meet the governor,” a neighbor told Human Rights Watch.
Since seizing power, government leaders have instructed former security forces members to register with local authorities and surrender their weapons in exchange for a letter guaranteeing their safety.
But the families of some victims say the Taliban have used these screenings to detain and kill former officers, the report said. According to the report, former civil servants in top government positions, such as judges, who did not know they needed to receive apology letters, were beaten up and detained for not doing so.
The report also said the Taliban conducted searches to find some former members of the security force, and threatened and abused their families to try to reveal their whereabouts.
According to the report, elite Taliban special forces, known as red units, raided their homes in the middle of the night on the pretext of confiscating weapons, when several victims were arrested. These units led the Taliban’s most successful operations against coalition and former government forces in recent years.
In September, the killings prompted the Taliban’s acting defense minister, Mawlawi Muhammad Yacoub, to issue a warning to his commanders.
“The Islamic Emirate has announced a general apology to all the soldiers and bad people who stood against us, and martyred us and tormented the people,” he told Taliban fighters in a voice message distributed by the government. “Once they have been pardoned, no Mujahid has the right to break the commitment of forgiveness or take revenge.”
But it appears to have had little effect on Taliban fighters.
In a recent murder confirmed by The New York Times, Bahauddin Kunduzzi, a former intelligence officer, was found dead on Tuesday, two weeks after he went missing in the city of Kunduz, a center in the north of Afghanistan.
Mr. Kunduji had handed over his weapons and equipment and according to his family had received a letter guaranteeing his safety. The Taliban also allowed him to continue working in the intelligence agency.
Then one evening, a group of talibis came to the grocery store Mr Kunduji had just opened to earn some income as the new government was unable to pay his monthly salary, his relatives said.
“They beat him in the shop, then took him away,” said a family member, his voice disappearing into sobs behind the phone. “They strangled her, then threw her body in a ditch.”