Afghanistan, US con­demn be­head­ings of women, child

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

KAN­DA­HAR: Afghan Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani yes­ter­day con­demned the be­head­ing of a group of Shi­ite Hazaras, in­clud­ing a child, in the south­ern prov­ince of Zabul, the scene of deadly clashes be­tween ri­val Tale­ban groups.

Lo­cal of­fi­cials in Zabul prov­ince said the head­less bod­ies of four men, two women and one child, who were kid­napped by armed men in Oc­to­ber from neigh­bor­ing Ghazni prov­ince, were found in Khak-i-Afghan dis­trict of trou­bled Zabul on Sun­day.

The cir­cum­stances sur­round­ing the be­head­ings are un­clear. Some lo­cal of­fi­cials pointed the fin­ger at fight­ers from the Is­lamic State group (IS) in the prov­ince, but the gov­ern­ment does not have con­trol of the area and the claim could not be in­de­pen­dently ver­i­fied.

Groups as­so­ci­ated with IS have made grow­ing in­roads in Afghanistan this year, at­tract­ing fight­ers and sup­port away from dis­en­chanted mem­bers of the Tale­ban.

“The heart­less killing of in­no­cent in­di­vid­u­als, es­pe­cially women and chil­dren, has no jus­ti­fi­ca­tion in any re­li­gion or creed,” Ghani said in a state­ment. Ghani, who was “pro­foundly sad­dened” by the killing, said he would con­vene “an ex­tra­or­di­nary se­cu­rity meet­ing to seek ways for track­ing down and pun­ish­ing the per­pe­tra­tors of this atrocious crime” later yes­ter­day.

The US also is­sued a state­ment con­demn­ing “yes­ter­day’s be­head­ing of seven civil­ians, in­clud­ing women and a child” through its em­bassy in Kabul. Also yes­ter­day Afghan of­fi­cials said heavy fight­ing con­tin­ued be­tween mil­i­tants from the two groups of Tal­iban in at least three dis­tricts of Zabul prov­ince.

The skir­mishes, which first erupted on Satur­day, in­volved fight­ers loyal to the widely-recog­nised Tale­ban leader Mul­lah Akhtar Man­sour and fight­ers led by Man­soor Dadul­lah.

Dadul­lah is a deputy in the splin­ter group an­nounced last week by Mo­hamed Ra­sool, in the first for­mal split within the Tale­ban since the death of long-term leader Mul­lah Omar. Is­lam Gul Seyal, the pro­vin­cial gover­nor’s spokesman, said the fight­ing in Arghandab, Khak-Afghan and Dai­chopan dis­tricts con­tin­ued yes­ter­day, and had left dozens of mil­i­tants from both sides killed and in­jured. The ex­tent of the fight­ing and more pre­cise fig­ures could not be ver­i­fied.

Mean­while, ri­val groups of Tale­ban mil­i­tants have clashed in the south­ern Afghan prov­ince of Zabul, killing as many as 80 peo­ple in re­cent days, of­fi­cials said yes­ter­day, as brew­ing hos­til­ity be­tween fac­tions in the in­sur­gency turned vi­o­lent. Gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials and spokes­men for the two main Tale­ban groups said fierce fight­ing had been un­der­way since the week­end, with each side blam­ing the other for start­ing the vi­o­lence. In­sur­gents who have pledged al­le­giance to Is­lamic State may also have been in­volved.

Seven mem­bers of the mainly Shia Hazara eth­nic group, in­clud­ing three women and a child, were found with their throats cut on Sun­day in an in­ci­dent po­lice blamed on Is­lamic State mil­i­tants.

The fight­ing, in one of the Tale­ban’s tra­di­tional south­ern strongholds, un­der­lined the risk of frag­men­ta­tion fac­ing the Is­lamist move­ment since it an­nounced ear­lier this year that its founder, Mul­lah Omar, had died two years ago. A pro­longed split in the move­ment could fur­ther com­pli­cate the re­sump­tion of peace talks with the gov­ern­ment, which broke down in July fol­low­ing the an­nounce­ment of Mul­lah Omar’s death. —Agen­cies

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