By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) - At least 33 people have been assassinated in the southern Afghan province of Kandahar after Taliban insurgents overtook a crossing point there with Pakistan, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said on Saturday.
Confirming recent reports from media outlets citing officials that the Taliban rejected, findings by the commission suggested that religious scholars, tribal elders, civil society activists, journalists, and human rights defenders were being sacrificed in targeted attacks in the province.
The grim situation in the Taliban-held area also caught the attention of international rights groups with Human Rights Watch (HRW) saying the Taliban has been targeting government officials and pro-government figures, as well as their families.
"There are grave concerns that Taliban forces in Kandahar may commit further atrocities to retaliate against the government and security forces," said Patricia Gossman, associate Asia director HRW. "Taliban leaders have denied responsibility for any abuses, but growing evidence of expulsions, arbitrary detentions, and killings in areas under their control are raising fears among the population."
The HRW has demanded that the UN, as well as the US and other countries engaged in the peace talks, should urgently call on the Taliban leadership to stop these killings and other abuses.
Confirming the reports, Fida Mohammad told Anadolu Agency that two of his sons, Shah Mahmood and Mohammad Khan, were evicted from their homes a few days ago and that their bullet-riddled bodies were later found. "The Taliban have launched a massacre in the Spin Boldak district ... young men are still being evicted from their homes every night and taken away to be killed," he said.
The Taliban, however, reject the charges, with spokesman Zabiullah Mujahed dubbing them as enemy propaganda.
Earlier this month, the Taliban claimed that they had taken control of the key crossing point with Pakistan in Kandahar province.
This was the third key border crossing after the northern Sher Khan port with Tajikistan and the Tor Ghundi port with Turkmenistan to fall to the insurgents.