Amnesty International says Taliban fighters last month "massacred" and brutally tortured several members of Afghanistan's mainly Shi'ite Hazara minority, in what the watchdog called a "horrifying indicator" of the hard-line Sunni militant group's rule.
In a report published on August 19, Amnesty International said nine Hazara men were killed between July 4 and 6 in the Malistan district in the eastern province of Ghazni.
The London-based human rights group quoted villagers as saying they had escaped the village of Mundarakht to the mountains when fighting intensified between government forces and Taliban fighters.
When some of them returned to Mundarakht to collect food, they said the Taliban had looted their homes and were waiting for them. Separately, some men who passed through Mundarakht on their way home to a nearby hamlet were also ambushed.
In total six men were allegedly shot, some in the head, and three were tortured to death, including "one man who was strangled with his own scarf and had his arm muscles sliced off."
Amnesty International said it had reviewed photographic evidence after the killings.
Since seizing the Afghan capital, Kabul, on August 15, the Taliban has tried to portray a more restrained image, but Amnesty International Secretary-General Agnes Callamard said that "the cold-blooded brutality of these killings is a reminder of the Taliban's past record, and a horrifying indicator of what Taliban rule may bring."
"These targeted killings are proof that ethnic and religious minorities remain at particular risk under Taliban rule in Afghanistan."
The Hazara community is Afghanistan's third-largest ethnic group. Ethnic Hazaras mainly practice Shi'ite Islam and have faced long-term discrimination and persecution in predominantly Sunni Afghanistan.
The killings "likely represent a tiny fraction of the total death toll inflicted by the Taliban to date," Amnesty International said, as the militants have cut mobile phone services in many of the areas that they have recently captured and are controlling which photographs and videos are shared from these areas.
Callamard called on the UN Human Rights Council to launch "a robust investigative mechanism to document, collect, and preserve evidence of ongoing crimes and human rights abuses across Afghanistan."
The Taliban was known for its brutal rule of Afghanistan that deprived women and ethnic minorities of their rights, before it was ousted by a U.S.-led coalition in 2001.
Following its takeover of Kabul, the militants promised vowed not to launch revenge attacks on those who worked with foreign forces or the previous Afghan government.
But a UN document has warned that Taliban fighters have been going door-to-door to search for people who worked with the U.S. and NATO forces, and those persons and their families could be now risking torture and execution.