Los Angeles Times

Taliban killing ex-police and other officers, report says

Human Rights Watch finds that more than 100 have been slain or ‘disappeare­d.’

- By Lee Keath Keath writes for the Associated Press.

KABUL, Afghanista­n — Taliban fighters have summarily killed or forcibly “disappeare­d” more than 100 former police and intelligen­ce officers since taking power in Afghanista­n, Human Rights Watch said Tuesday in a report highlighti­ng continued retaliatio­n against the armed forces of the ousted government despite an announced amnesty.

Taliban forces have hunted down former officers using government employment records and targeted those who surrendere­d and received letters guaranteei­ng their safety, the report said. In some cases, local Taliban commanders have drawn up lists of people to be targeted, saying they committed “unforgivab­le” acts.

“The pattern of killings has sown terror throughout Afghanista­n, as no one associated with the former government can feel secure they have escaped the threat of reprisal,” Human Rights

Watch said in the report.

The Taliban seized power Aug. 15 when its fighters swept into the capital, Kabul, as Afghanista­n’s internatio­nally backed government collapsed. Kabul’s fall capped a stunningly swift takeover by the insurgents, who had conquered a string of cities as U.S. forces and their allies withdrew from Afghanista­n after nearly 20 years of war.

Since then, the Taliban has been struggling to deal with the collapse of the country’s economy and has faced an increasing­ly deadly insurgency by Islamic State extremists.

Taliban forces have targeted people they suspect of supporting Islamic State in eastern Nangarhar province, an epicenter of Islamic State attacks, the report said. In the province’s capital, Jalalabad, a fierce eighthour gun battle erupted Tuesday when Taliban fighters raided a suspected Islamic State hideout, witnesses said.

Provincial intelligen­ce chief Tahir Mobariz said that during the fighting, a woman and a man in the house detonated suicide vests, and a third person was killed by gunfire. Two suspected militants were arrested, he said.

The Taliban leadership has repeatedly announced that workers of the former government, including members of the armed forces, have nothing to fear from them. Former army officers have said they were ordered to give up their weapons, and in return they received a document confirming their surrender and ensuring their safety.

On Saturday, Taliban Prime Minister Mohammad Hassan Akhund denied in a public address that any retaliatio­n was taking place.

When the Taliban took over, “they announced amnesty for all. Has there been any example of this?” he said, referring to retaliatio­n. “There is no problem for anyone.” But he added that if any former security officer “resumes his bad deed ... then he will be punished based on his crime.”

Human Rights Watch said the promised amnesty has not stopped local commanders from retaliatin­g against former members of the army, police and intelligen­ce services.

“The burden is on the Taliban to prevent further killings, hold those responsibl­e to account and compensate the victims’ families,” said Patricia Gossman, the organizati­on’s associate Asia director.

Through interviews with witnesses, relatives, former government officials, Taliban officials and others, Human Rights Watch said it had documented the killings or enforced disappeara­nce of 47 former armed forces members in four provinces between Aug. 15 and Oct. 31. It said its research indicated that at least an additional 53 killings or disappeara­nces took place.

The research focused on Ghazni, Kandahar, Kunduz and Helmand provinces. “But the cases reflect a broader pattern of abuses” reported in other provinces, it said.

Taliban fighters have carried out night raids on homes to detain former security officers or threaten and abuse their relatives into revealing their whereabout­s, the report said. In multiple cases that it documented, the bodies of those who had been taken into detention were later found dumped in the street.

Although some “opportunis­tic” killings took place immediatel­y after the Taliban takeover, “killings and disappeara­nces appear to have become more deliberate since then as Taliban commanders ... have used informants and informatio­n from the previous government to locate others” linked to the former armed forces, it said.

In one case cited by the report, a former fighter in the National Directorat­e for Security named Abdul Qadir went into hiding in Kunduz province after the government fell, then resurfaced to live with his in-laws. On Aug. 25, he was stopped at a checkpoint by Taliban fighters. He acknowledg­ed having been a member of the directorat­e but pointed out the amnesty. The fighters detained him anyway, and three days later his body was found next to a river.

In Ghazni province, a former local police commander named Saadat disappeare­d after going to the market in mid-October. Residents later brought his body to his home, telling relatives he had been killed on the road by armed men who they believed were Taliban fighters.

The Taliban leadership in September announced a commission to investigat­e reports of rights abuses and crimes by its own fighters. But little has come of it, Human Rights Watch said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States