Afghans investigating reports that Taliban beheaded hostages
June 1, 2016
KABUL, Afghanistan — The Afghan government is investigating reports that the Taliban beheaded two hostages being held in northern Kunduz province Wednesday, hours after several of the hostages gained their freedom.
The Taliban had taken responsibility for a separate attack earlier in the day in which men disguised in women’s burqas and wearing military uniforms underneath stormed a courthouse in Ghazni province, southwest of Kabul.
Sediq Sediqqi, spokesman for the Interior Ministry, said the government could not confirm reports of the beheadings.
Several of the people who had been taken hostage early Tuesday morning had gained their freedom by late Tuesday night, officials said, and operations were underway to rescue several still held by the Taliban.
“We are trying to rescue the rest of the people as soon as we can,” said Hijratullah Akbari, a police spokesman.
The insurgents had initially detained nearly 200 passengers at highway checkpoints as they were traveling from Kabul to the northeastern Takhar and Badakhshan provinces early Tuesday morning.
Later, all but about two dozen who the Taliban have claimed were military commandos and army officials, were released. At least 10 were killed, according to a local official in Kunduz.
Accounts of the hostage rescue varied. Akbari said 10 hostages were rescued during a night raid Tuesday. But the acting provincial police chief, Col. Masumi Hashimi, told Pajhwok Afghan News that eight hostages, not 10, were released through the mediation of tribal elders.
Kunduz has been the site of heavy fighting this spring as the Taliban seek to overrun the provincial capital. They briefly held the city last fall.
In Ghazni province, four gunmen wearing suicide vests stormed a courthouse in the provincial capital Wednesday morning, killing one guard and five civilians, said Sediqqi, the Interior Minister spokesman. A judge and 12 others, including civilians and police, were wounded in the attack.
The attackers wore women’s burqas — a traditional head-to-toe blue garment — to conceal themselves, he said. They were also wearing Afghan government uniforms underneath.
The raid occurred about 10 a.m., when one attacker detonated his suicide vest on the road outside the courthouse, said Aminullah Amarkhail, the Ghazni province police chief. One of the gunmen shot and killed a courthouse guard and was then killed by rooftop snipers. Two insurgents were killed in a firefight inside the building.
The Taliban said in an internet statement that several court officials were killed or wounded.
The incident came a week after a Taliban suicide bombing in Kabul targeted court officials traveling to work in neighboring Wardak province. That attack — which the Taliban said was revenge for the government’s execution of six convicted insurgents in early May — killed at least 11 people and wounded 10 others.
The Taliban also claimed responsibility for a deadly roadside bomb attack in the northern Balkh province Wednesday, which killed Sholgara district police chief Bismullah Khan.
Sediqqi confirmed Khan had been killed when his vehicle struck the improvised explosive device. The blast wounded three other policemen who were serving as Khan’s bodyguards.
Zubair Babakarkhail contributed to this report.