Taliban Attack in Balkh: Who Was Killed on Deadly Wednesday?
By: Amin Kawa
The Taliban have been responsible for the deaths of numerous Afghan civilians, and have continued to perpetrate targeted assassinations and retaliatory attacks despite the declaration of a nationwide amnesty in the past year. The Taliban are experienced in guerrilla warfare and suicide attacks, but lack the necessary knowledge of societal security and law enforcement. Recently, the Taliban shot more than 20 civilians in two separate incidents in Balkh. The eight victims of the Taliban were all related to one another, and the surviving family members have claimed that the Taliban killed the victims, who owned construction and logistics companies, at a private gathering. The Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan has strongly condemned the Taliban‘s illegal methods and military strikes, and has asked the relatives of the deceased to provide the commission with their documentation and justifications.
On Wednesday, 8th March, eight people were killed by members of the 888th intelligence unit of the Taliban in Haji Ayub, the seventh district of Mazar–e–Sharif. In a newsletter, the local Taliban leaders in Balkh stated that eight individuals who were allegedly planning to “kidnap and revolt against the Taliban“ were killed during an operation. The Taliban revealed the bodies of the victims on Thursday, 9th March. Although the images that the Taliban have published of the victims do not show any signs of an armed struggle, sources in Balkh claim that the Taliban have killed at least eight family members in a regular dispute. The relatives of the victims have described the photographs as fake and have asked for a UN investigation into them; however, Husht–e–Subh cannot confirm the authenticity of the photographs of the victims.
The family and friends of the victims transported the corpses to Kabul and attempted to stage a protest in front of the gate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) the day after their murder, however the Taliban acted aggressively to prevent this and warned the media not to report on the murders. According to one of the survivors, who also lost his nephew and other family members, he told Husht–e–Subh that “the Taliban followed the journalists from the UNAMA headquarters. They left the victimized civilians’ families and stated that the Taliban would solve their problem without allowing them to go to UNAMA. The Taliban promised to resolve this issue with the elders of the families after forbidding the transportation of murdered civilians’ bodies in front of the office of the United Nations Deputy Mission. He went on to say, “The Taliban members instructed us to bring our elderly people. The Taliban cannot solve anything. What would be the use of it if the Taliban solved it? They wouldn‘t have killed our loved ones, but I hope they would vacate the entire building. The Taliban have already stolen three cars that belonged to us. So, how are they going to solve our problems when they have already killed our loved ones?”
He spoke with sadness, saying that the Taliban had killed his family members without conducting an inquiry, so they were unable to resolve the issue. His grief and anguish over the loss of his loved ones prevented him from speaking further. He asked that the United Nations take notice of their plight. “I told the Taliban that they were unable to resolve our issue. What documents did they use to kill the civilians? What evidence did they have to label the civilians as members of ISIS? The Taliban created documents for them after killing my nephew and his son–in–law. The Taliban left the civilians after killing them with an unholstered AK–47 at their sides in order to portray them as enemies of the Taliban. The Taliban stated that two of the civilians killed were wounded. According to the Taliban, they were executed; they should have been taken to the Criminal Technical Court for an investigation. The Taliban should have conducted research before killing anyone,” he said.
The grieving resident of Balkh province exclaimed, “We went to the main office in Mazar and they said they had not informed us. They had not informed the district either, and as a result of the Taliban‘s 888 unit‘s strikes, the same people were brutally murdered. The Taliban made a similar statement which is highly offensive. Had they told us, these people would not have been compromised.”
Two of the deceased civilians‘ relatives informed Hush–e–Subh that they were the owners of a construction and logistics company. According to a man who lost two of his close relatives, all of the victims were employed by the “Green Sky“ construction and logistics company, which was working on three development projects in three provinces of Afghanistan. He also alleged that this company had been constructing three sections of school buildings in the provinces of Kandahar, Daikundi, and Nuristan. Additionally, he stated that the main branch of Green Sky Construction Company is still operational in the “Kolula–pushta“ area of Kabul.
List of the civilians who were murdered in Balkh
|1||Atiqullah||Ainullah||Businessman||Kamalpoor||Qarghaee||Laghman||Haji Ayub, Mazar-e-Sharif|
|2||Mohibullah||Ainullah||27-28||Businessman||Kamalpoor||Qarghaee||Laghman||Haji Ayub, Mazar-e-Sharif|
|3||Abdullah||Habibullah||36-37||Businessman||Kamalpoor||Qarghaee||Laghman||Haji Ayub, Mazar-e-Sharif|
|4||Bashir||Taleb||25-26||Businessman||Kamalpour||Qarghaee||Laghman||Haji Ayub, Mazar-e-Sharif|
|5||Bakhtiar||Taleb||21-22||Businessman||Kamalpour||Qarghaee||Laghman||Haji Ayub, Mazar-e-Sharif|
|6||Parwaz||Benares||17||Businessman||Kamalpoor||Qarghaee||Laghman||Haji Ayub, Mazar-e-Sharif|
|7||Gulalai||53||Bazo-Khil||Kabul||Kabul||Haji Ayub, Mazar-e-Sharif|
|8||Subhan Shah||Ahmad Zai|
Local reliable sources in Balkh reported on Wednesday, March 8, that the Taliban had killed 12 provincial citizens for allegedly collaborating with ISIS. The sources informed Hasht–e–Subh that the victims were shot in the “Dasht–e–Shadian“ area of Mazar-e–Sharif city, and were of Tajik and Hazara ethnicities, with four of them being former members of the security forces.
On the same deadly Wednesday in Mazar–e–Sharif, Sediq was killed by Taliban members. According to a close relative of Sediq who spoke to Hasht–e–Subh, Sediq was a carpenter who had recently started trading in animals. His family also informed Hasht–e–Subh that he owned a carpentry shop in the city. At around 9:30 a.m., Sediq had gone to his shop and then to Pul–e–Khomri to purchase sheep and lambs with his friends. Between 12:00 and 1:00 p.m., Sediq‘s family was informed of his death. The Taliban stated that Sediq had been killed while attempting to rob a block in the Kart–e–Sulh area of Mazar–e–Sharif and resisting the Taliban members. However, Sediq‘s family found his body in the Pul–e–Tasadi area of the city.
An anonymous resident of Balkh province informed Hasht–e–Subh that the conflict among the Taliban leaders is the cause of the current situation. The Taliban are unable to tolerate those who oppose them, thus they are killing civilians and falsely attributing them to ISIS in order to deceive the international community.
In a conversation with Hasht–e–Subh, the director of Afghanistan‘s Independent Human Rights Commission, Naeem Nazari expressed his condemnation of the Taliban‘s “extra–legal“ methods. He stated, “Unfortunately, these extra–legal methods continue to be supported under Taliban control. Former soldiers have been killed in retaliation and labeled as ISIS, thieves, and kidnappers. Additionally, people who do not have a good relationship with the Taliban have been discredited and killed with these labels. There have also been occasions when the Taliban have wrongfully hurt residents based on incorrect information.”
Nazarie stated that there is no excuse for slandering individuals, conducting public hearings, or executing innocent citizens. He requested that the families of the victims and other individuals present their proof and reasons to the Independent Human Rights Commission of Afghanistan so that the information can be documented and a broader legal action can be taken against the accused without causing them harm.
A number of former lawyers have referred to the Taliban‘s behavior as “revenge and arbitrariness.” They have argued that no one feels safe due to the lack of enforcement of the law. These former prosecutors have stated that the Taliban act without consulting the court or the prosecutor‘s office, and on the basis of false information. Furthermore, they have claimed that, in addition to exacting revenge on the previous security personnel, the Taliban are also reportedly killing Afghan civilians who have no relation to the combatant sides.
Ahmad Shakib (a pseudonym), one of the prosecutors living under the Taliban‘s rule, told the Husht–e–Subh that, “The lack of law has resulted in daily killings and assaults. The Taliban members act as their own judges, so neither lawyers nor the court have any authority over them. Previously, procedures were strictly followed and all aspects of the cases were examined. However, due to the absence of law, no one is safe anymore. In some cases, the Taliban have assassinated merchants or carpenters based on false information while attempting to kill former security personnel.
On Friday, March 10, the Taliban committed a heinous crime when they murdered a bride at a checkpoint in the Kuzkenar district of Nangarhar province. Sources report that the bride was killed due to the Taliban‘s anger over the loud music playing in the car she was travelling in, which was adorned with flowers. This is not the first time the Taliban have killed people at checkpoints, and Richard Bennett, the UN‘s special rapporteur on human rights, has recently declared their attacks on civilians to be crimes against humanity in his most recent report.
Roza Otunbayeva, the Special Representative of the UN Secretary General for Afghanistan, declared at the UN Security Council on International Women‘s Day on Wednesday, March 8th, that the Taliban are incapable of managing terrorist organizations within Afghanistan.