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Despite vowing ‘amnesty,’ Taliban said hunting for West’s allies house-to-house

A confidential report for the UN says people who worked with US and NATO forces face torture and execution, as extremist group conducts ‘targeted door-to-door visits’

Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 19, 2021. (AP/Rahmat Gul)
Taliban fighters patrol in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 19, 2021. (AP/Rahmat Gul)

KABUL, Afghanistan (AFP) — The Taliban are going house-to-house searching for opponents and their families, according to an intelligence document for the United Nations that deepened fears on Friday that Afghanistan’s new rulers were reneging on pledges of tolerance.

After routing government forces and taking over Kabul on Sunday to end two decades of war, the hardline Islamist movement’s leaders have repeatedly vowed to provide complete amnesty, as part of a well-crafted PR blitz.

Women have also been assured that their rights will be respected, and that the Taliban will be “positively different” from their brutal 1996-2001 rule.

But with thousands of people still trying to flee the capital aboard evacuation flights, the report for the UN confirmed the fears of many.

The Taliban have been conducting “targeted door-to-door visits” of people who worked with United States and NATO forces, according to a confidential document by the UN’s threat assessment consultants seen by AFP.

The report, written by the Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, said that militants were also screening people on the way to Kabul airport.

Taliban fighters stand guard along a street in Kabul, on August 16, 2021, after a stunningly swift end to Afghanistan’s 20-year war, as thousands of people mobbed the city’s airport trying to flee the group’s feared hardline brand of Islamist rule. (Wakil Kohsar / AFP)

“They are targeting the families of those who refuse to give themselves up, and prosecuting and punishing their families ‘according to Sharia law,'” Christian Nellemann, the group’s executive director, told AFP.

“We expect both individuals previously working with NATO/US forces and their allies, alongside with their family members to be exposed to torture and executions.”

‘Lives under threat’

The Taliban have denied such accusations in the past and have several times issued statements saying that fighters were barred from entering private homes.

They also insist women and journalists have nothing to fear under their new rule, although several media workers have reported being thrashed with sticks or whips when trying to record some of the chaos seen in Kabul in recent days.

During their first stint in power, women were excluded from public life, and girls were banned from school. People were stoned to death for adultery, while music and television were also banned.

The US invaded Afghanistan and toppled the group in 2001 following the September 11 attacks for providing sanctuary to al-Qaeda.

Taliban fighters sit on the back of a vehicle in the city of Herat, west of Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 14, 2021, after they took this province from Afghan government (AP Photo/Hamed Sarfarazi)

A video posted online this week by a high-profile woman journalist for a government-run television station offered a different reality to the Taliban’s new image of tolerance.

“Our lives are under threat,” Shabnam Dawran, an anchor at the state-owned broadcaster RTA, said as she recounted being barred from the office.

“The male employees, those with office cards, were allowed to enter the office, but I was told that I couldn’t continue my duty because the system has been changed,” she said.

Some opposition remains

There have been isolated signs of opposition to the Taliban in parts of Afghanistan this week.

Small groups of Afghans waved the country’s black, red and green flags in Kabul and a handful of suburbs on Thursday to celebrate the anniversary of Afghanistan’s independence — on occasion, in plain sight of patrolling Taliban fighters.

“My demand from the international community… is that they turn their attention to Afghanistan and not allow the achievements of 20 years to be wasted,” said one protester.

Taliban fighters fired guns to disperse dozens of Afghans in Jalalabad who waved the flag on Wednesday.

Russia also emphasized on Thursday that a resistance movement was forming in the Panjshir Valley, led by deposed vice-president Amrullah Saleh and Ahmad Massoud, the son of a slain anti-Taliban fighter.

A man holds the flag of Afghanistan during a protest in Jalalabad, on August 18, 2021. (AP Photo)

“The Taliban doesn’t control the whole territory of Afghanistan,” Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

In the Panjshir Valley northeast of Kabul, Ahmad Massoud, the son of Afghanistan’s most famed anti-Taliban fighter Ahmed Shah Massoud, said that he was “ready to follow in his father’s footsteps”.

“But we need more weapons, more ammunition and more supplies,” Massoud wrote in The Washington Post.

Tens of thousands of people have tried to flee Afghanistan since the Taliban swept into the capital.

The US said on Thursday that it had airlifted about 7,000 people out of Kabul over the past five days.

Chaos erupted at the airport this week, as frantic Afghans searched for a way to leave the country.

An Afghan sports federation announced that a soccer player for the national youth team had died after falling from a US plane he desperately clung to as it took off.

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