Taliban admits killing Afghan comic beaten in viral video
The Taliban on Thursday said its fighters had killed an Afghan police officer, better known for posting humourous videos online, after clips emerged on social media showing him being beaten and his dead body.
Fazal Mohammad, popularly referred to as "Khasha Zwan", was stationed in southern Kandahar province but was taken away by the Taliban after returning home about two weeks ago, according to an officer serving with him.
Last week, viral videos emerged showing Mohammad, his hands tied behind his back and sitting between two men in a car, being slapped repeatedly. Another clip purported to show his dead body.
"He was not a comedian, he fought against us in several battles. He had tried to flee when we detained him, prompting our gunmen to kill him," Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said on Thursday.
"He was an active policeman and responsible for deaths of many people," he told AFP.
Police commander Sailab, who has one name like many Afghans and who worked with Mohammad, said the comic was never deployed in combat and was more of an entertainer for the checkpoint's officers.
The militants initially denied they had anything to do with his murder, until the videos went viral.
The killing comes as the Taliban - who strictly forbid any form of entertainment when they controlled Afghanistan - are making sweeping territorial gains across the country.
Second vice president Sarwar Danesh said in a Facebook post it "displayed the nature of the enemies of this land and their hostility to culture, art and freedom".
Mohammad's murder also triggered outrage on social media.
"The innocent face of Khasha hurts the heart of every human. They (Taliban) have shot him dead, they are the cruelest people in the world," a post on Facebook said.
The Taliban has been accused of targeted killings - including journalists, judges and activists - since signing a landmark deal with Washington last year that paved the way for the withdrawal of foreign troops.
Violence has further surged since early May, when the insurgents launched a campaign across the countryside after foreign forces began their final pullout.
Afghan forces on Thursday repelled a Taliban attack on the outskirts of Afghanistan's key western city of Herat, officials said, as the insurgents pressed on with their sweeping offensive.
The Taliban recently seized several districts around the city as well as two border crossings in the province along the frontiers with Iran and Turkmenistan as they continued with their deadly assault.
"The Taliban fighters had launched attacks near the city of Herat in the district of Guzara last night," Jailani Farhad, spokesman to Herat provincial governor, told AFP.
"Fortunately, their attack was repelled by Afghan security forces, but unfortunately four members of Afghan security forces were killed."
Farhad said sporadic fighting continued in the district up until now, adding up to 40 Taliban fighters had been killed in the fighting.
Both the Taliban and Afghan authorities exaggerate their battlefield and casualties claims, which are impossible to independently verify.
Afghan forces and militiamen of veteran warlord and anti-Taliban commander, Ismail Khan, were deployed around the city of about 600,000 inhabitants, an AFP correspondent reported.
Khan, who previously fought the Soviet occupation forces in the 1980s and then the Taliban during their hardline regime in the 1990s, has vowed to fight the militants again to counter their staggering advances in recent months.
The insurgents have captured an arc of territory stretching from the Iranian border to the frontier with China since launching their offensive in early May.
They have already captured scores of districts, border crossings and encircled several provincial capitals.