KUNDUZ -- The Taliban abducted and then killed seven members of a family on Tuesday (April 7) in Sholgara District in Balkh Province, reinforcing doubts about the militant group's commitment to peace.
The family of farmers was attacked by the Taliban as the group was travelling from Khwaja Sikandar village to Tela Kamar village in Sholgara District, said Adil Shah Adil, a spokesman for the Balkh Police. During the assault, an 11-year boy was injured.
"The Taliban mercilessly killed this group of seven peasants who were in different age categories and left their bodies in a desert," Adil said in an interview Wednesday (April 8).
"The Taliban have no mercy and spare no one. They want to create fear ... but this kind of attack leads to further hatred of them," he said.
After the family's abduction, troops tracked down and engaged the Taliban members in a battle, but the insurgents escaped and took the individuals with them, according to Sirajuddin Abid, the Sholgara district governor.
"None of the victims had any affiliation with the government," Abid said.
"All farmers move their livestock to pasture in late March. The members of my family went to dig ditches to store water for livestock but were mercilessly martyred," said Abdul Samad Khaliqi, a relative of the family that was slain.
"Those who were shot dead had no affiliation with anyone -- they were ordinary peasants," Khaliqi said.
Condemnation of killings
Continuous attacks by the Taliban since the signing a peace deal with the United States earlier this year have raised doubts among Afghans about how serious the militants are about peace. The group has killed scores of security personnel since the pact was signed on February 29.
NATO Senior Civilian Representative for Afghanistan Nicolas Kay underscored that doubt in his reaction to the slayings of the seven civilians.
"I add my voice to the condemnation of this horrendous killing. Taliban say they want peace, but continue killing Afghans. Why?" Kay said, according to a Thursday (April 9) tweet by TOLOnews.
The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) confirmed the killings in a statement April 9 and called it a "war crime".
"The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, besides condemning this crime, once again strongly urges armed opposition groups ... to respect international human rights principles and avoid killing of innocent civilians," it said in a statement.
"Hostage-taking and the killing of civilians are a clear violation of international human rights and a war crime," the group added.
'An unforgivable act'
Taliban violence against civilians is skyrocketing this year, said Sayed Ahmad Sameh of Mazar-e-Sharif, AIHRC director in the northern zone.
"Based on our data, we had 40 incidents causing civilian casualties in 2019, while in 2020, in the first three months only, we registered 37 such attacks."
"Most of the civilian casualties and injuries by the Taliban are due to explosions, attacks, and other incidences in the provinces of Balkh, Sar-e-Pul, Faryab and Jawzjan," he added.
"This shocking incidence shows the cruelty of those who have issued such orders to the full extent, which is an unforgivable act," Atta Muhammad Noor, chief executive of the Jamiat-e-Islami Party and former Balkh governor, wrote on his Facebook page.
Two of the victims were under the age of 10 and 15 years, he said.
"If the Taliban movement believes in peace, then it should not close the door to hopes for peace with such acts," he added.