Conflicts & War

Taliban kill Shia-Hazara rebel commander trying to escape to Iran

Kabul, Aug 17 (EFE).- The Afghan defense ministry reported on Wednesday that border guards shot and killed a “rebel” Taliban leader from the Hazara community, a minority Shia group, as he attempted to flee to Iran through the western province of Herat.

“The soldiers of the Islamic Emirate (as the Taliban administration calls itself) killed Mawlawi Mehdi, the rebel leader of Balkhab district of Sar-e-Pol province, in the border area of Herat province, who sought to flee to Iran,” the ministry claimed in a tweet.

Mehdi was from the northern Sar-e-Pol province’s Balkhab area, where he revolted against the Islamists.

In May 2020, the Taliban nominated the Shia Hazara leader as a shadow district governor in the northern region, 15 months before the Islamists seized control in Kabul.

The ethnoreligious minority group is hardly represented in the Taliban regime, controlled by Sunni Pashtuns, with known a violent anti-Hazara and anti-Shia prejudice.

The Taliban consider the Shia-Hazaras apostates.

According to an article published in 2020 by the Afghanistan Analysts Network (AAN), Mehdi joined the Taliban in prison after being condemned to 14 years in prison over a land dispute with another Taliban leader in Balkhab.

In prison, he studied religious scriptures alongside Islamists, earning him the title Mawlawi, awarded to Islamic intellectuals.

He did not, however, convert to Sunni Islam and was nonetheless introduced by the Taliban as a Shia.

After his release, he received weapons and other resources from the Taliban and went on to fight alongside the Islamists.

Following his release, he got guns and other resources from the Taliban and joined the Islamists in their war.

In a 2020 video, he urged his Hazara brethren to battle “Jewish and Christian invaders.”

Mehdi’s selection as a top Taliban commander was shocking considering the minority group’s persistent assaults by Sunni insurgents and, more recently, the Islamic State militant network.

In 2017, Afghan authorities discovered four mass graves containing 55 bodies, all members of the Shia Hazara minority, in a village in Sar-e-Pol province.

According to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the slaughter occurred during the Taliban and Islamic State’s capture of the town.

The Taliban promised Shias and Hazaras protection from the Islamic State after regaining control on Aug.15 of last year, but they were unsuccessful.

In October of last year, at least 80 and 60 people were killed and hundreds wounded in suicide bombs targeting Shia mosques on two successive Fridays in northern Kunduz and southern Kandahar provinces, respectively.

The bloodiest incident in recent memory occurred in May 2021 at a girl’s school in the capital’s Dashte Barchi district, killing 110 people, most of whom were young girls, and injuring roughly 290. EFE


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