KABUL: The Taliban on Saturday pledged to allow an international investigation into human rights abuses, including murders and detentions reportedly carried out by the group in the Spin Boldak district of southern Afghanistan’s Kandahar province after it was captured in recent weeks.
“Any entity wishing to go to the area for investigation will be allowed to do so to verify for themselves what has happened,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a spokesman for the Taliban, told Arab News.
“Any institution, be it the Red Cross, the UN or human rights groups (can conduct the investigation). We can facilitate the ground for their trip,” he added.
It follows a report by US-based Human Rights Watch (HRW) that the Taliban had “detained hundreds of residents whom they accuse of association with the government” and “reportedly killed some detainees, including relatives of provincial government officials and members of the police and army” after taking control of Kandahar’s Spin Boldak border crossing with Pakistan on July 8 and the Spin Boldak district on July 16.
“There are grave concerns that Taliban forces in Kandahar may commit further atrocities to retaliate against the government and security forces,” Patricia Gossman, HRW’s associate Asia director, said in the report.
“Taliban leaders have denied responsibility for any abuses, but growing evidence of expulsions, arbitrary detentions and killings in areas under their control are raising fears among the population,” Patricia said.
Local media reported that the Taliban had taken more than 300 people into custody and detained them in unidentified locations “after conducting searches to identify residents who had worked for the local government or security forces.”
On Saturday, Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said that it had received reports of killings and arrests in the area.
“There are allegations. We will investigate and share the outcome of the findings,” Zabihullah Farhang, an AIHRC spokesman, told Arab News.
Reports of human rights abuses by the Taliban are in stark contrast to repeated orders by its leaders asking members not to indulge in vengeful acts and to treat civilians well, especially in areas overrun by the group since US and NATO troops began withdrawing from Afghanistan on May 1.
The Taliban claim to now control 85 percent of Afghanistan’s territory amid a surge in wins on the ground and as foreign forces complete their pullout from the war-battered country.
The latest allegations, which the Afghan government has said seeks to target members of the Achakzai, a Pashtun tribe, evokes memories of reported abuses committed by the group during its rule from 1996 to 2001 before it was toppled by a US-led invasion.
Human rights violations were one of the critical factors that led the world to refrain from recognizing the Taliban’s government at the time.
According to the HRW report, among those killed in Spin Boldak were two sons of provincial council member Fida Mohammad, who reportedly shared close ties with the late Kandahar police chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq, who hailed from the Achakzai tribe and was killed by the Taliban in 2018.
“Under Raziq, the Kandahar police were responsible for torture, hundreds of enforced disappearances, and extrajudicial killings of captured Taliban fighters and suspected Taliban supporters, as well as tribal rivals and other civilians,” the HRW said.
Mohammad was unavailable for comment when contacted by Arab News on Saturday.
However, Mirwais Stanekzai, an Interior Ministry spokesman in Kabul, placed the number of those killed by the Taliban in Spin Boldak at “nearly 100 people.”
Describing it as “a horror and a big tragedy,” Stanekzai told Arab News: “Many of the victims were shot either in their homes or taken out during night times. Their bodies were thrown in deserts and some public areas.”
However, he added that the government “did not have video footage to support the killings or as proof to show the world now because the area is under the Taliban’s control.”
Several lawmakers from Kandahar said that they were “aware of the killings” but did not know how many had died “because there were no mobile phone networks in Spin Boldak.”
“We have heard of the reports and received complaints about the killings of two sons of the provincial council members only so far,” Mahmoud Nasrat, a lawmaker, told Arab News.