KANDAHAR -- The Taliban on Thursday (July 29) said they had killed an Afghan police officer, known for posting humorous videos online, after clips emerged on social media showing him being beaten, and then showing his dead body.
Nazar Mohammad, popularly referred to as "Khasha Zwan", was stationed in Kandahar province but was taken away by the Taliban after returning home about two weeks ago, according to an officer serving with him.
Last week, viral videos emerged showing Mohammad, his hands tied behind his back while he was sitting between two men in a car, being slapped repeatedly. Another clip purported to show his dead body.
"He was not a comedian; he fought against us in several battles. He had tried to flee when we detained him, prompting our gunmen to kill him," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid told AFP Thursday.
"He was an active policeman and responsible for deaths of many people," he claimed.
Police commander Sailab, who worked with Mohammad, said the comic was never deployed to combat and was more of an entertainer for the checkpoint officers.
The militants initially denied any role in his murder until the videos went viral.
On Facebook, second vice-president Sarwar Danish said the killing "displayed the nature of the enemies of this land and their hostility to culture, art and freedom".
US Charge d'Affaires Ross Wilson also condemned the killing.
"Nazar Mohammad 'Khasha' was a beloved comedian, bringing laughter & joy to his community even in dark times. The Taliban kidnapped & lynched him, then gleefully published video evidence on Twitter. We condemn these sickening actions & the Taliban leadership should too," Wilson said in a tweet Wednesday.
Outrage was also evident on social media.
"The innocent face of Khasha hurts the heart of every human. They [the Taliban] have shot him dead; they are the cruelest people in the world," a Facebook user posted.
The Taliban have been accused of targeted killings -- including those of journalists, judges and activists -- since signing a landmark deal with Washington last year that paved the way for the withdrawal of foreign troops.
The latest killing comes as the Taliban -- who strictly forbade any form of entertainment during the time they controlled Afghanistan -- are making territorial gains across the country.
In some areas, the Taliban are once again introducing the harsh interpretation of the Islamic rule that earned them notoriety until their ouster by US-led forces in 2001.
Last month, they took over Sher Khan Bandar, a northern customs post that connects the country to Tajikistan over a US-funded bridge spanning the Panj River.
"After Sher Khan Bandar fell, the Taliban ordered women not to step out of their homes," said Sajeda, who told AFP she worked in a local factory before the Taliban took over.
"There were many women and young girls doing embroidery, tailoring and shoe-making... The Taliban's order has now terrified us," she said in a phone interview.
The Taliban ruled over Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001 according to a strict interpretation of the Qur'an.
They ordered women to stay indoors unless accompanied by a male relative, banned girls from school and stoned to death women found guilty of adultery.
Men had relatively more freedom, but the Taliban ordered them not to shave, beat them if they did not attend prayers, and told them to wear only traditional Afghan clothing.
Some rural pockets of the country adhere to similar rules even without Taliban oversight -- but the insurgents have tried to impose these edicts even in more-modern centres.