ZABUL -- The Taliban are imprisoning civilians in Zabul Province under trumped-up charges of spying and then torturing and even killing some of the detainees, according to rescued prisoners.
Imamuddin, who is a permanent resident of Baghlan Province, has run a bakery in Qalat, capital of Zabul Province, for the past three years. He was captured by the Taliban on May 7 in Ghazni Province while travelling from Zabul via Kabul to his home in Baghlan.
"I took a bus on the third day of the holy month of Ramadan in Zabul. When I passed Zabul and reached the Shahbaz neighbourhood in the Maqor District of Ghazni Province, the Taliban forced me to step down from the bus and then they slapped me several times. They then covered my eyes with a black cloth, put me on a motorcycle and then took me to a village," he said.
"From the 4th until the 15th of the month of Ramadan [May 8 to May 19], the Taliban drove us around on motorcycles while we were blindfolded and we were detained in mosques in different villages," he added.
"The Taliban were going to villages; they were taking food and tea from the residents by force," he said. "They were threatening and beating anyone who rejected their demands.
"I witnessed three such events in areas in Maqor District. I do not know the names of those villages, but I am still sad for the cruelties those villagers endured, and psychologically I feel uneasy because of it."
"Later, from May 19 until June 2 we were kept in a prison in the Gero District of Ghazni Province, where they treated us very cruelly," Imamuddin said.
Twelve other Afghans were imprisoned alongside Imamuddin, and the Taliban killed three of them for supposed espionage on May 29, he said.
The Taliban told Imamuddin that he also faced execution.
The Taliban held Imamuddin because he had the Facebook app on his mobile phone along with a number of photos of security personnel, Imamuddin said.
"The Taliban asked me, 'Are you a spy for the infidels?' Each time I emphasised that I am innocent, I am a civilian, I am poor," he said. "But they beat me harshly until I fell unconscious... it hurts me whenever I think of that situation."
"That was the 29th day of Ramadan, and the following day was Eid," he continued. "At 11pm, our prison's guards were yelling that planes were coming and that infidels had come."
"Minutes after we heard the calls, heavy fighting broke out. We heard the sounds of fighting for about 30 minutes," Imamuddin said.
"Finally, someone said, 'Are you prisoners?' We were scared and asked who they were, but they broke down the door and said in Dari that they were commandos and 'we are here for you.'''
"When I heard this voice and I saw the faces of the commandos, I cried for joy because... the Taliban were going to kill all of us. They had decided to execute us on allegations of spying," he said.
"Afghan forces, especially the commandos, are rescue angels," Imamuddin said. "When the commando forces killed our prison guards, they took us from Ghazni by airplane to the military base in Logar and later on they took me to Baghlan and they gave me cash for Eid and clothes."
"I do not have words to thank the Afghan commandos, because if they had not come, we would not be alive today," he said.
Rahimullah, a farmer in Janda District of Ghazni Province, suffered through a similar experience. He spent six months in a Taliban prison in Naw Bahar District of Zabul Province before Afghan special forces rescued him May 29.
"While I was travelling from Qalat city of Zabul Province to Ghazni, the Taliban forced me off the bus in the Hasan Karez neighbourhood of Shah Joy," he said.
"They beat me so much that I could not remember anything for a month, and then they took me to the bazaar of Naw Bahar District of Zabul, where they kept me together with other prisoners."
"They held me on allegations of spying for the government," he added. "The Taliban asked, 'Why did you go to Qalat city of Zabul?' I told them that I was there to visit someone who owed me money, but they did not accept it."
"The Taliban forced us to do labour. They beat us once a week and did not give us food for several days. We might have seen the sun for 15 days in six months, and it was only when they were using us for forced labour," Rahimullah said.
"Sometimes, we saw foreigners with the Taliban who were speaking other languages. They [Taliban] beat us harshly in their [foreigners'] presence; they even broke the arms and legs of some of our friends."
"The Taliban are really spies for foreigners. They are enemies of Afghans, and they are very wild and cruel," he added.
"I left my agricultural land and village because of the cruelty of Taliban oppressors, and now I work as a shopkeeper in Ghazni city, but one thing that I will always be proud of is that we have our army and commando forces fighting against those oppressors," Rahimullah said.
The imprisonment of innocent civilians by the Taliban is not acceptable or tolerable, said Haji Atta Jan Haqbayan, chairman of the Zabul provincial council.
"We have trust in our security forces; we are proud of them, and we are sure that they will defend each and every square foot of Afghan territory. They will no longer let ... Iranians and their spies and slaves, or in other words the Taliban, commit oppression in our country," he said.
"When the Taliban are beaten severely by Afghan forces on the battlefield, they harass, imprison and kill civilians," Zabul Governor Rahmatullah Yarmal said in an interview.
"However, we have to be sure that our army has the ability and courage to eliminate destructive activities in any part of Afghanistan and that they will not let any terrorist harass civilians," he said.