Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) says it is investigating video footage that shows an Afghan woman being stoned to death.
The two-minute clip shows a group of men throwing rocks at a covered woman who is lying in a hole that has been dug in the ground. A crowd of onlookers can be heard shouting “Hit her!” and "Allahu Akbar!”
The woman's cries and screams can be heard.
The AIHRC told RFE/RL that it is trying to discover exactly when and where the video was shot, and why the woman was killed.
The Taliban claims the footage is from the same October 2015 stoning that RFE/RL previously obtained footage of -- a case in which a 19-year-old woman in the central province of Ghor was killed for alleged adultery.
The Taliban also said the stoning had been carried out by a pro-government militia commander.
But local officials blamed Taliban militants for the 2015 execution. The victim, identified as Rokhshana, had been accused of having premarital sex with her fiance. The incident took place in the village of Ghalmin on the outskirts of Firoz Koh, the provincial capital.
But Afghan journalists and activists say the new footage, which was first uploaded on social media on January 30, documents a more recent stoning in the Taywara district of Ghor Province.
Ghor, a mountainous and remote province in Afghanistan’s central highlands, is one of the most impoverished and unstable areas of the country. The provincial government's power extends little beyond Firoz Koh.
The Taliban and dozens of illegal, armed groups run by former warlords and militia leaders are active in Ghor -- a key transit route for shipments through Afghanistan of weapons and opium.
The new footage prompted outrage from Afghan social-media users. Many have blamed the Taliban.
The Taliban is locked in peace negotiations with the United States and has held talks with Afghan politicians about a political solution to end Afghanistan’s 18-year-old war.
The peace talks have provoked controversy among some Afghans who view the Taliban as terrorists who should not be negotiated with.
"I am utterly shocked and saddened after I watched a video on Twitter in which a group of Taliban is stoning an innocent woman," Sediq Sediqqi, the spokesman for President Ashraf Ghani, wrote on Twitter on February 1. "Taliban’s cruelty and atrocity under the name of Islam is a crime against humanity."
In response, the Taliban said on Twitter that the punishment of stoning for adultery is an “Islamic ruling that cannot be rejected by any Muslim.”
But the Taliban said it was not involved. It claimed the recently uploaded video showed a stoning carried out in 2015 by Sa’eedi Yar, the commander of a pro-government militia.
The Taliban’s claim failed to quell a flood of condemnation directed at the militant group.
"The Taliban stoned this woman a few days ago in Ghor Province," Laila Haidari, an Afghan activist, posted on Twitter on February 1. "But where in the world does a group claiming to build a state commit such atrocious acts?"
"A testament that the Taliban, their fragile masculinity, barbarism & inhumane ideology, has not changed," Afghan rights activist Farangies Shah tweeted on February 1. "Yet the US continues to flirt with the idea of negotiating power with them -- under the guise of peace."
“Cultural poverty and extremism are worse than the catastrophe of explosions and suicide attacks,” Afghan women’s rights activist Fatima Khan tweeted on January 31.
While it is unclear why the woman in the video was punished, unmarried girls in Afghanistan are often restricted to their homes and banned from having contact with men outside of their immediate families.
Brutal punishments often await Afghan women and girls who break social norms.
Death by stoning for convicted adulterers is banned under Afghan law, although offenders face long prison terms for adultery. The penal code, originating in 1976, makes no provision for the use of stoning.
Afghanistan's constitution prescribes that "no law can be contrary to the beliefs and provisions of the sacred religion of Islam" and sometimes appears at odds with more liberal and democratic elements within it.
Capital punishment was widely practiced by the Taliban regime that ruled much of the country from 1996-2001, when convicted adulterers were routinely shot or stoned in executions conducted in front of large crowds.
In rural areas, where Taliban militants exert considerable influence, some Afghans still turn to Taliban tribunals to settle disputes because many view government bodies as corrupt or unreliable.
The Taliban employs strict interpretations of Shari'a law, which prescribes punishments such as stoning and executions.
In many Taliban-controlled areas, men or women found guilty of having a relationship outside of marriage or an extramarital affair are either sentenced to death or publicly flogged.
Afghan officials often blame the Taliban for such punishments.