KABUL: A mass grave found in southern Afghanistan has sparked calls for justice, as locals recalled atrocities committed against civilians over decades of conflict.
The remains of 12 people were recently found by residents of Spin Boldak, a town bordering Pakistan in the southern province of Kandahar, which had been the site of intense fighting between forces of the Western-backed government and Taliban fighters for the last two decades until the group took over Afghanistan last year.
Video clips, shared on social media by locals and Taliban officials, showed villagers gathered around piles of bones.
Bilal Karimi, the Taliban’s deputy spokesman, said the grave was from around eight or nine years ago, “when the area was under the control of the former administration.” He added that investigations were ongoing.
Taliban officials said the killings took place when Gen. Abdul Raziq was Kandahar police chief under the previous government.
Raziq was allegedly involved in torture and kidnapping, and was known for his fierce stance against the Taliban. He was killed in 2018.
A number of mass graves have been found in Afghanistan, many containing the remains of civilians killed in the decades of war before the US-led invasion in 2001.
More than 47,000 civilians and around 66,000 of Afghanistan’s soldiers and police officers died in the post-2001 conflict, according to a Costs of War report by Brown University.
Afghans called for justice for the victims in the latest discovery. “A lot of kidnapping, disappearing and killing was happening in Kandahar,” Abdul Kabir Mukhlis told Arab News on Tuesday.
Mukhlis, who now lives in Zabul province but studied for several years in Kandahar, recalled years of living under the threat of violence and brutality.
“I swear to God I haven’t had a single day in peace because of the ruthless Raziq and his allies,” the 28-year-old said.
“I couldn’t go anywhere in the city. I’ve seen many such incidents. My friends disappeared, they were killed.”
Mukhlis called on the Taliban to bring the perpetrators to justice, especially those who remain in the country.
“The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan should bring all of them to justice. I don’t expect justice from the international community because they supported these criminals,” he said. “They knew about the atrocities but didn’t do anything.”
Hekmatullah Zaland, executive director of the Center for Strategic and Regional Studies in Kabul, told Arab News that the past two decades had seen powerful military figures committing “severe human rights and legal violations” to retain power.
“In the name of security, many innocent people were killed in the south in ways that are known only to those who did the atrocities. The recently explored grave in Kandahar could be just one example of the many similar incidents across the country,” Zaland said.
“On the pretext of the war on terror, both Afghans and their international allies have caused so much harm to innocent people that can’t be compensated. Justice is what could heal some of the wounds of the Afghan nation and the families of the victims.”
Esmatullah Afghan, a university lecturer from Helmand province, told Arab News that families of the victims often had to wait years to find out their fate.
“The injustice done to Afghans by their own countrymen and by foreigners is enormous,” he said. “It’s the responsibility of the current government and an ethical obligation of the world to ensure justice to victims of cruelty, injustice and war in Afghanistan.
“Afghans have been suffering mainly due to wars initiated by foreigners. The guilty must be punished.”