Afghanistan: Senior Taliban official says amputations and executions will resume

Taliban leader Mullah Nooruddin Turabi said amputations helped deter criminals from breaking the law. Credit: AP

The Taliban's former head of the religious police has said executions and the amputation of hands for criminals convicted by the militants will resume in Afghanistan under their leadership.

Mullah Nooruddin Turabi, a veteran leader of the hardline Islamist group who is now in charge of prisons, said amputations helped deter criminals from breaking the law.

The senior official is among a number of Taliban leaders, including members of the all-male interim Cabinet, who are on a United Nations sanctions list.

Taliban co-founder Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar (left), Sirajuddin Haqqani (right), with Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahi (bottom). Credit: AP

“Cutting off of hands is very necessary for security,” he told AP news agency.

Turabi added that such punishments may not be carried out in public, as they were in the 1990s when convicted thieves had their hands amputated and those convicted of highway robbery had a hand and a foot cut off.

Before the Taliban were toppled by a US-led invasion in 2001, executions of convicted murderers were done by a single shot to the head, carried out by the victim’s family, who had the option of accepting “blood money” and allowing the culprit to live.

Turabi, now in his early 60s, was then justice minister and head of the so-called Ministry of Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice - effectively the religious police.

During the 1990s, the world condemned the Taliban’s punishments, which took place in Kabul’s sports stadium or on the grounds of the sprawling Eid Gah mosque, often attended by hundreds of Afghan men.

Afghan drivers and passengers stuck in a traffic jam look at Taliban fighters riding in the back of a pickup truck in Kabul. Credit: AP

“Everyone criticised us for the punishments in the stadium, but we have never said anything about their laws and their punishments,” Turabi said from the capital Kabul, as he dismissed outrage over their past public executions.

“No one will tell us what our laws should be. We will follow Islam and we will make our laws on the Quran.”

When the Taliban took power in 1996, one of his first acts was to scream at a woman journalist, demanding she leave a room of men, and to then deal a powerful slap in the face of a man who objected.

Taliban government spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid gives a press conference in Kabul. Credit: AP

Attempting to present a softer image, the Taliban have promised a milder form of rule since they seized power in the conflict-ridden country on August 15 following a rapid offensive.

This may be aimed at ensuring that international aid money continues to flow, as overseas contributions are a crucial source of funding for Afghanistan.

In this week’s interview with the AP, Turabi spoke to a female journalist.

“We are changed from the past,” he said.

But numerous reports have emerged of human rights abuses carried out across the country since the insurgent's ascendency, as well as hard-fought women's rights being suppressed.

The Taliban took over from the Afghan government in mid-August. Credit: AP

Shortly after the takeover, an Afghan-born Manchester resident who was stranded in the county, told ITV News he had seen the Taliban execute people in his street.

The man said the Taliban ransacked his home in Kabul, as militants went from house to house searching for people.

Despite the promise it made a month ago, the Taliban has not allowed girls in Afghanistan to return to secondary schools, citing unspecified safety concerns.

There were fears that the much-criticised American withdrawal of troops at the end of August would lead to such rights being rolled back.

In recent days in Kabul, Taliban fighters have revived a punishment they commonly used in the past — public shaming of men accused of small-time theft.

On at least two occasions in the last week, Kabul men have been packed into the back of a pickup truck, their hands tied, and were paraded around to humiliate them.

And, according to Amnesty International, Taliban insurgents were behind the massacre of nine members of the persecuted Hazara minority back in August.

ITV News Correspondent John Ray reported on the reality of life for Afghan women under the Taliban last week

On Thursday, Human Rights Watch warned that the Taliban in Herat were "searching out high-profile women, denying women freedom of movement outside their homes [and] imposing compulsory dress codes".

ITV News has reported on the women who vanished from offices and TV screens as they were forced to adjust to the reality of life under the Taliban.

One woman described the hopelessness of only being able to sit at home and watch a "government of masculinity".