HERAT -- Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) have freed scores of security personnel and civilians from Taliban prisons in a number of raids this week, the Defence Ministry said.
Late on Tuesday (May 25), Afghan commandos rescued 62 people, including 36 members of the security forces, from a Taliban prison in Baghlan-e-Markazi district, Baghlan province, the ministry said in a statement Wednesday.
The commandos killed four militants, the statement said.
That operation follows another one in the same district on Monday, in which security forces rescued eight security personnel from a Taliban prison, the ministry said in a separate statement.
On Tuesday, commando forces raided a secret Taliban prison in Marabad village in Pashtun Zarghun district, Herat province, freeing 18 security personnel and 23 civilians, local security officials said.
The air and ground operation took place overnight and security forces killed seven Taliban militants who were guarding the prison.
The operation to rescue the captives was complex and concluded with no casualties among the security forces or prisoners, Col. Fardin Sepah, commander of the 2nd Commando Brigade in the western region, told reporters.
"We conducted this operation in the heart of Taliban territory," he said. "The Taliban had big claims, but our security forces embarrassed them with strength."
"The successful operation to rescue prisoners sent the message to the Taliban that security forces will come after them wherever they are and will eliminate them," Sepah said.
The commandos conducted the operation in an area of Pashtun Zarghun district near Obe district, where the Taliban brutally punished a woman in a kangaroo court a few weeks ago, according to Herat governor Sayed Wahid Qatali.
Security forces stormed the prison after a video showing a group of men watching the Taliban's flogging of the woman circulated on social media and sparked public outrage in Afghanistan.
"The Taliban tortured civilians and security personnel in a brutal and un-Islamic manner in this prison," Qatali said.
In an earlier raid, Afghan commandos on March 3 rescued 34 security personnel and civilians from a Taliban prison in Adraskan district of Herat province.
Torture, forced labour
Security personnel and civilians whom troops rescued from the Taliban prisons reported experiencing torture and inhumane treatment by the Taliban.
Taliban insurgents chained prisoners by their hands and feet and kept them in a dark basement, said Wakil Ahmad, an Afghan National Police officer who was captured during clashes with the Taliban two months ago.
The Taliban would whip them every day -- 20, 30, sometimes even 40 lashes, he said.
"Every night, the Taliban would chain 50 to 60 people together, whipping them and beating them with their gun butts," he said.
The Taliban then took the prisoners to mosques to stay overnight, all in one room, Ahmad said. "At 5 in the morning, they would start beating us again and take us back to the prison."
"The Taliban demanded 100 AFN ($1.26) a day from every prisoner for food, but they would give us just enough food to stay alive, pocketing the rest of the money for themselves," he said, referring to the Taliban practice of extorting money from the captives' families.
The Taliban brutally tortured all their prisoners, said Mohammad Dawood, a resident of Pashtun Zarghun district who spent a month in a Taliban prison.
"The Taliban chained our hands and feet in the prison, which are bruised," he said.
Dawood said the Taliban tortured one of his friends for three hours every day, asking him why he worked for the Afghan government.
In addition to torturing the prisoners, the Taliban threatened to kill them and any security forces or commandos who attempted to rescue them, he said.
"A month in Taliban prison feels like a year because of the torture and inhumane treatment," said Nazir Ahmad, an Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier who spent a month in Taliban custody.
"The Taliban forced us to work during the day," he said. "They built houses for themselves, but we had to carry mud and bricks on our shoulders from dawn to dusk."
"After we returned from work to the prison, the Taliban would brutally beat us with whips and chains," he said.
Following the three-day temporary ceasefire during Eid ul Fitr and an uptick in Taliban violence, the ANDSF have launched offensive operations in the western region.
All attacks launched by the Taliban in the western region have failed in the past week and the ANDSF have inflicted heavy casualties on the group, Col. Mohammad Amin Bromand, deputy commander of the ANA's 207th Zafar Corps, told reporters on Tuesday.
"After the Taliban intensified their attacks and fighting after Eid, based on the instruction from the leadership, offensive operations against the Taliban have started across the western region," he said.
"The Taliban do not have the ability to fight the security forces and have resorted to bombings," he added.
Afghans should not worry about the security situation because the ANDSF are courageous and carrying out successful operations against the Taliban, Bromand said.
The public should not worry about the withdrawal of foreign forces because Afghan security forces are defending the country, said Zmarai Assadi, a soldier with the 2nd Commando Brigade in Herat.
"Our message to the Taliban is to forget about the dream of capturing Afghanistan because there are heroes in this country called security forces who will destroy you and drive you out of this country," he said.
"The Taliban should not think about the destruction of Afghanistan anymore," Assadi said. "We will not allow the Taliban to kill our civilians with their evil plans."
The only option the Taliban have is to choose peace, he said.
The Taliban will be destroyed by security forces if their fighters continue to oppress civilians, said Amirullah Khogyani, a soldier with the 2nd Commando Brigade.
"The only flag that will always rise throughout the history in Afghanistan will be the tricolour flag of the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan," he said. "The Taliban should forever abandon the dream of raising their white flag."