Crime Justice

Prisoners rescued by Afghan commandos recount Taliban's brutality

By Mohammad Qasem

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Afghan commandos pose with prisoners they rescued from a Taliban prison in Baghlan province on February 16. [Special Operations Corps]

KUNDUZ -- Afghan commandos on Wednesday (February 17) night freed 24 inmates from a Taliban prison in Kunduz province in the most recent of a series of similar rescue operations.

Commando units swept into a Taliban prison in Kabuli Qeshlaq village, Aqtash district, Kunduz province, the Special Operations Corps said.

They released 24 Taliban-held prisoners, among them 16 members of the Afghan National Army (ANA), two police officers, four commandos, a National Directorate of Security (NDS) member, and a civilian.

A few days earlier, in a Monday night operation, Afghan commandos rescued 17 civilians and 25 Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) personnel from a Taliban prison in Baghlan province.

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Civilians rescued by Afghan commandos in a raid are shown January 27 in Baghlan province. [Afghan Defence Ministry]

That operation took place in Ali Khwaja village in Baghlan-e-Jadid district, the Special Operations Corps said.

On January 26, Afghan commandos rescued 32 individuals, including 12 ANDSF personnel, from a Taliban prison near the Dand-e-Shahabuddin area of Baghlan province.

Individuals rescued from the Dand-e-Shahabuddin prison recounted the torture and harassment they endured during their detention at the hands of the Taliban.

Tortured by the Taliban

Muhammad Saber, 38, who was released from a Baghlan prison, said the Taliban abducted him on his way from Kunduz to Kabul in the Jar-e-Khushk area of Baghlan last December.

"The Taliban beat me up because they thought I worked with the government, and they wanted me to confess that I was a civil servant," he said. "But I am a shopkeeper, and I wanted to bring products for my shop from Kabul to Kunduz."

The Taliban punched, kicked and flogged those who did not give detailed answers to their questions and extracted confessions, not caring whether they were true or false, by administering electrical shocks, he said.

"They served prisoners only one meal a day," he said. "Ten people had to share one loaf of bread."

"On January 8, I was on the Baghlan–Badakhshan highway, on my way to Badakhshan, when the Taliban stopped our vehicle in Hussainkhel, Baghlan province, and abducted a few of us," said Abdul Saboor Sayeedi, another released prisoner.

Sayeedi, who described himself as a "low-ranking civil servant" who travelled to Kabul on business, said that during their ordeal, he and the others were kept "in a house that was in ruins".

"The Taliban were able to find all my information within a few minutes," he said. "They found out what my job was and where I worked and even showed me my photo in the employment registration [database]."

"I was kept in the Taliban prison for 18 days, during which I experienced very brutal days, and I couldn't sleep out of fear," he added.

"Every moment, I felt I could get killed that day or [the] next day," he said. "But the commandos arrived like rescuing angels and freed us from the Taliban's torture."

ANA soldier Abdul Fatah Samadi said his mental health deteriorated in the Taliban's prison. He said he thought about his family constantly and worried about the future of his wife and children if he were to die.

"When I was released from the Taliban's prison, I felt like I was reborn," he said, adding that he would never forget that feeling.

"There is no law or justice in the Taliban's system," he said.

Brutal treatment of civilians

The Taliban detain civilians and security personnel to use them as leverage for prisoner swaps, said Ghulam Farooq Farooqi, a Baghlan political affairs analyst.

Most detainees are civilians with no connection to the government, he said.

The Taliban have been committing more kidnappings in recent weeks in hopes of obtaining more leverage in the peace talks, said Baghlan civil society activist Khalid Sharifi.

"Our information shows that the Taliban have used prisoners to dig wells and tunnels in [Baghlan] province," he said.

"We are concerned about the future of civilians in Baghlan as the number of abductions and casualties increases by the day," said Abdul Rahim Aria, director of Baghlan province's civilian protection group.

In January alone, almost 50 civilians, including some children, were killed or injured in Dand-e-Ghori and Baghlan-e-Markazi districts and in Pul-i-Khumri city, Aria said. "We call on parties to the conflict to ... respect civilian lives."

Improved highway security

ANA troops destroyed Taliban checkpoints in Chashma-e-Shir on the Baghlan–Samangan highway in an operation in January, Baghlan police spokesman Ahmad Jawed Basharat said.

Since then, he said, the Taliban have not had specific locations to use for their harassment and extortion attempts.

Baghlan security forces have increased their patrol and mobile checkpoints on the Baghlan–Kabul, Baghlan–Kunduz and Baghlan–Samangan highways to prevent the Taliban's disruptive activity, he said.

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Civilians, especially the old man, seen among the government prisoners, is very deplorable. The age of that old man is about seventy years, and he should have been respected, but the enemy kept him in prison. This person may have spent several months in a very bad condition during his captivity, but fortunately he was released by the brave commandos of the country. The enemy was so rude as they did not feel ashamed of his white beard and imprisoned him.

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Afghan commandos are successful in all operations and Taliban cannot confront them. The Afghan government should invest more on Afghan commandos and increase their number and decrease the number of Afghan National Army, because Afghan National Army has not had so many achievements. The number of commandos is much less than the security threats which are posed against the country and the government. There are several reasons why Afghan commandos are more successful than ordinary soldiers in the war. 1) most of the Afghan National Army commandos are literate and educated. In operations, they rarely made mistakes. They often attack the target, but most of the ordinary soldiers are illiterate, and instead of targeting their enemy, they target civilians. 2) more money is spent on commandos, and they spend most of their time in training, so they are physically stronger than other soldiers. 3) commandos are paid better than the others and they are assured that they have good income, and they do not worry about their families’ poverty and hunger. If I was instead of the government, I would have increased the number of commandos to two hundred thousand and pay them at least $ 500 a month. If the government does this, not only will commandos succeed against the internal enemy, but also they will be ready to fight against Pakistan and Iran.

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I am proud of our national and security forces, especially the National Directorate of Security's special forces and the commando forces. I have a request that they may better no more bring Pakistan's mercenaries and slaves alive, but instead they may perform an investigation on the spot and from there send them directly to the hell. A special unit may better be established to target and shoot any betrayer and traitor leaders who act and propagate against the country.

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All praises be to Allah. It is a pride as we have such a commando force who performs very complicated operations and free oppressed and innocent Afghans.

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