Afghan Taliban hold minority Hazaras hostage for ‘stealing sheep’

Updated 22 November 2015

Afghan Taliban hold minority Hazaras hostage for ‘stealing sheep’

KANDAHAR, Afghanistan: Afghan Taliban militants on Saturday kidnapped at least seven members of the minority Shiite Hazara community after a dispute over sheep, local authorities said.
Gunmen stopped three buses at dawn between Shah Joy and Qalat in the volatile Zabul province, first taking 17 hostages before releasing nine, local leader Wazir Mohammed Jawadi said.
Jawadi said the gunmen kept eight hostages, all from the Hazara ethnic group, Shiites who are known for their striking Central Asian features.
The local chief of police Mirwais Noorzai said that “seven Hazaras are being held hostage.”
He said local Taliban leader Mullah Taqwa had ordered the kidnappings because Hazaras allegedly “stole sheep,” adding that Taqwa would release the hostages “if the Hazaras give him back his sheep.”
A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yousef Ahmadi, told AFP that the group would “investigate” the incident.
Parts of Zabul province are under the control of the mainly Sunni Taliban and the area has been the scene of clashes between rival Taliban factions.
The three million-strong Afghan Hazara community has been persecuted for decades, with thousands killed in the late 1990s by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
In February, 31 people, mostly Hazara, were abducted in the region by fighters linked to the Daesh group, which has been trying to gain a foothold in Afghanistan.
A week ago thousands of people attended the burials of seven Hazaras after their decapitated bodies were found in Zabul. The victims were kidnapped in neighboring Jaghuri by unknown gunmen in October.


Russia says suspected mercenaries detained by Belarus were going to Latin America

Updated 20 min 47 sec ago

Russia says suspected mercenaries detained by Belarus were going to Latin America

  • Belarusian authorities have said they suspect the men entered their country to plot “acts of terrorism” and destabilize it before an Aug. 9 presidential election
  • Russia has close relations with a number of Latin American countries including Venezuela, and sent dozens of military personnel to Caracas last year

MOSCOW: A Russian diplomat said on Monday a group of more than 30 suspected Russian mercenaries detained in Belarus last week were only passing through Minsk and were on their way to an unnamed Latin American state.
Belarusian authorities have said they suspect the men entered their country to plot “acts of terrorism” and destabilize it before an Aug. 9 presidential election.
Russian officials have dismissed the accusation and described the men as employees of a private security firm. The Russian state says it does not use mercenaries.
The standoff could further strain relations between Minsk and its traditional ally Russia, which soured after the neighbors failed to agree on an oil supply contract for this year.
“Their final destination was one of the states in the Latin American region,” the diplomat, Kirill Pletnyev, was quoted as saying on Monday by the Russian RIA news agency.
Belarus granted Pletnyev consular access to the detained men, RIA added. His quotes did not name the Latin American country or give any more details on the identity of the men.
Russia has close relations with a number of Latin American countries including Venezuela, and sent dozens of military personnel to Caracas last year, describing them as military specialists.
On Friday, Alexander Agafonov, the head of the Belarusian investigative group that is handling the case, said the arrested men — some of whom were wearing army fatigues — had given “contradictory accounts” about their plans.
He was quoted as saying that 11 of the arrested men had told authorities they planned to fly on to Venezuela, 15 to Turkey, two to Cuba and one to Syria. Another said he did not know his destination, while three refused to make a statement.
Belarus leader Alexander Lukashenko, who has said he wants a full explanation from Russia, faces his biggest electoral test in years on Aug. 9 as public anger swells over his handling of COVID-19, the economy and human rights.