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New Videos Put Spotlight On Taliban Retribution Killings In Afghanistan

Taliban soldiers drive down a street in Panjshir, the last region of Afghanistan to resist the militants' takeover of the country.

Newly emerged video of the summary execution of an Afghan accused of fighting against the Taliban in the Panjshir Valley and the torture and killing of a shopkeeper in the northeastern region have added to the growing list of brutal acts of vengeance carried out by the extremist group since its return to power in August.

Video and images obtained by RFE/RL's Radio Azadi indicated that 48-year-old shopkeeper Ghulam Sakhi had been severely tortured, with extreme bruising to both of his legs, signs of beatings to his torso, and his head heavily wrapped with a bandage.

Ahmad Shah Ayubi, a resident of the southeastern district of Khanj, told Radio Azadi that Sakhi was dragged from his home in the village of Mata by Taliban fighters on the night of March 12 after taking part in a rally against the recent torture and killing of another man in the province.

Ayubi said Sakhi's battered body was thrown in front of the deceased's home the next morning. "A number of young people assembled to take [Sakhi's] body to the provincial government building," he said.

Fearing that the rally would spread, the Taliban's governor for Panjshir arrived in Mata and told the protesters that the perpetrators of the crime had been arrested, Ayubi said. Mawlawi Dad Mohammad, the Taliban police chief in Panjshir, told Radio Azadi on March 14 that 12 people had been arrested in connection with the killing and that an investigation had been launched.

Panjshir, a rugged mountain valley located about 100 kilometers northeast of the capital, was the scene of short-lived resistance to the Taliban after the militant group seized Kabul on August 15, 2021.

Since the Taliban conquered the valley in September, locals have claimed that the militants have committed human rights abuses against the civilian population including extrajudicial killings, torture, arbitrary detentions, and forcible evictions.

Sakhi's killing comes after video of the summary execution of 25-year-old Bilal Jawani in Panjshir was posted this week on social media. The killing took place in September in the village of Hesarak in the Rukha district as the Taliban was fighting to wrestle control of Panjshir.

Jawani's family deny he had any connection to any resistance group or former government post.
Jawani's family deny he had any connection to any resistance group or former government post.

The video shows Jawani, with his hands bound behind his back, being surrounded and questioned by his accusers before he is shot multiple times at close range and falls dead on rocky terrain.

The incident has led to protestations of Jawani's innocence by his family and to an outcry on social media about yet another example of the Taliban's brutality despite its pledges to adhere to human rights standards.

Speaking to Radio Azadi on condition of anonymity due to fears of retribution by the Taliban, a relative said Jawani did not have ties to the anti-Taliban National Resistance Front of Afghanistan or to the former Afghan National Army (ANA). "He had no connection with the resistance front or the previous government. He was a teacher," the relative said.

The relative said Jawani was executed because he was wearing camouflage clothing that resembled that worn by the ANA. "The Taliban martyred him because of his military uniform, without any evidence of [his ties to the] resistance or the previous government."

Revenge On Panjshir

The Taliban announced on September 6 that it had captured the Panjshir Valley, a traditional hotbed of resistance that the militants had never managed to control while in power from 1996 to 2001.

The region is the birthplace of Ahmad Shah Masud, an ethnic Tajik commander who had successfully defended his homeland against Soviet forces and the Taliban and used his clout to unite other ethnic factions to create the Northern Alliance in 1996.

Following his assassination by Al-Qaeda militants in 2001, Masud continues to be revered as a local hero. The fall of the Panjshir Valley in September was seen as a significant step in the Taliban's effort to consolidate power after foreign troops withdrew and the militants toppled the Western-backed Afghan government.

During intra-Afghan and international peace talks that took place in the run-up to the withdrawal of foreign forces, the Taliban attempted to cast itself as a more moderate version of the group that had been accused of extreme human rights abuses during its first stint in power from 1996 to 2001. With that came pledges to observe international human rights norms, a promise it repeated shortly after forcibly taking power.

Following the emergence of the video of Jawani's killing, Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid told Radio Azadi that the group was aware of the footage and that an investigation was under way. "The killer will be brought to justice. Whoever he is, whatever he has done is wrong," Mujahid said.

But Jawani's relative expressed skepticism about the Taliban's judicial practices and called for outside intervention. "We are not satisfied with [the Taliban's] government. No one is satisfied," the relative said. "We call on the United Nations to bring the perpetrators to justice."

The office of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has not yet commented on Jawani's killing.

The Taliban has consistently been criticized by UNAMA and international rights watchdogs for its human rights practices, including the treatment of girls and women, acts of retribution against ethnic and religious minorities, and the killings of former members of the Afghan police force and the ANA despite claims that it had introduced an amnesty to protect them.

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