Afghanistan hangs six death row prisoners in crackdown on Taliban

World Sunday 08/May/2016 19:30 PM
By: Times News Service
Afghanistan hangs six death row prisoners in crackdown on Taliban

Kabul: Afghanistan hanged six prisoners convicted of terrorism offences, as part of a tougher new policy towards the Taliban promised by President Ashraf Ghani in retaliation for last month's suicide attack which killed at least 64 people in Kabul.
The death sentences, carried out at the Pule Charkhi prison on the outskirts of Kabul on Sunday, drew an immediate response from the Taliban which said the departments of state involved in the executions would be treated as "military targets" and threatened a wave of suicide attacks.
"To gain revenge on the enemy, we have thousands of fighters ready to sacrifice themselves," a statement from the movement's main spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said.
With fiercer fighting expected in the coming weeks, the decision to execute the prisoners further dims hopes of reviving the stalled peace process backed by foreign partners including the United States and China.
A statement from Ghani's office said the executions had been carried out after a fair and transparent legal process and in accordance with both the constitution and law.
"Considering repeated pleas from the families of victims of terrorist attacks, President Ghani signed off on death penalties for six who committed major crimes, crimes against civilians and public security," the statement said.
A separate statement from the National Directorate for Security, Afghanistan's main intelligence agency, gave the identities of the six condemned men and detailed the attacks for which they were convicted.
These ranged from a Taliban intelligence official in Kandahar convicted of helping to organise the 2011 murder of Burhanuddin Rabbani, former head of the High Peace Council to a member of the Taliban-affiliated Haqqani network who organised suicide bombings in Kabul.
There was no indication of any direct link between the crimes and the April 19 attack in Kabul, which killed at least 64 people and wounded 347 others.
Even before the executions, the Taliban had threatened "serious repercussions" if Ghani's threat to approve death sentences were carried out, saying judicial institutions and individuals connected with the decision would be considered legitimate military targets.
It also said that foreign nationals and Afghan soldiers held as prisoners by the Taliban would be in danger.
Meanwhile, Taliban insurgents attacked police checkpoints on the outskirts of Lashkar Gah, the main city of the southern Afghan province of Helmand early on Sunday.
Helmand has been one of the main targets of the Taliban, which has forced government security forces to pull back from several districts and concentrate around Lashkar Gah and the main highway that runs through the province.
The attack in the Babaji area of Lashkar Gah, during the early hours of the morning, set off a three-hour gunbattle during which the Taliban said they overran two checkpoints, destroyed an armoured personnel carrier and captured a large amount of equipment.
Reports of casualties varied. Helmand police chief Abdul Rahman Sarjang said 14 Taliban fighters were killed and another 22 wounded before the insurgents were driven off, with four police killed and another seven wounded.
The Taliban said 15 police, including a police commander, were killed and several others wounded, while only one Taliban fighter was killed and another two wounded.
After months of heavy fighting in Helmand over much of the winter, a lull in combat had been seen over the past few weeks, according to Afghan and NATO officials.
However there has been continued heavy fighting in other parts of the country including Kunduz in the far north, Uruzgan, which neighbours Helmand and the central province of Ghazni.
Brigadier General Charles Cleveland, the main spokesman for NATO's Resolute Support mission in Kabul, told reporters last week that many fighters had been working in the Helmand opium fields, which provide one of the Taliban's main sources of income.