Taliban threatens to kill former govt officials, activists after several commanders found dead

Taliban threatens to kill former govt officials, activists after several commanders found dead
2 min read
24 March, 2022
Local activists fear that the Taliban could target their critics in acts of retribution for the deaths of their commanders.
The Taliban have threatened retaliatory attacks following attacks on their commanders in Afghanistan [Getty]

The Taliban has threatened to retaliate against activists and former Afghan government officials following the recent killings of their commanders, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).  

Taliban officials in Afghanistan’s southern Helmand province said they were prepared to take revenge and have raised surveillance in several parts of the state.

Residents in Gereshk, Helmand have reported more patrols and raids, and were reportedly warned by local Taliban officials that there could be mass arrests if the attacks continue.

Local activists told HRW that the insurgent group have increased their monitoring of individuals and groups they believe are “opposed to the Islamic Emirate.”

Retaliatory attacks against civilians are prohibited under international law.          

“Taliban leaders in Helmand should not be responding to attacks with threats of unlawful punishments,” said Patricia Gossman, the associate Asia director at Human Rights Watch. “Taliban authorities need to prevent retaliatory attacks and ensure that crimes are dealt with through a proper legal process.”

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Several Taliban commanders have been killed over the past few months. One was abducted and reportedly killed in February, two were fatally shot in mid-March, while another was found with a gunshot would behind his house. No group has so far taken responsibility for these killings.

An official at a local mosque told HRW that the Taliban officials announced at a gathering that they “have been very patient but eventually some of those who are now working against [us] will be caught and punished.” 

The recent statements raise concerns that the Taliban could use the opportunity to attack perceived critics of their regime, including activists, journalists and community groups.

The Taliban has been accused of carrying out revenge killings in the past. A Human Rights Watch report from November last year found that the insurgent group had executed or forcibly disappeared more than 100 Afghan police officers after taking control of the county in August 2021.