Afghanistan on Sunday hanged six Taliban-linked inmates, the government said, in the first set of executions carried out as part of President Ashraf Ghani’s new hardline policy against the insurgents.
Ghani carried out his threat to execute militants after an insurgent attack last month left 64 people dead in Kabul, in seemingly the deadliest attack on the Afghan capital since 2001.
The executions, the first endorsed by Ghani since he came to power in 2014, have dashed the last traces of hope of reviving Taliban peace talks that broke down last summer.
“In accordance with the Afghan constitution... Ghani approved the execution of six terrorists who perpetrated grave crimes against civilians and public security,” the presidential palace said in a statement.
“This order has been carried out today after... considering the human rights obligations of Afghanistan... and in accordance with Afghan laws.”
Five Taliban inmates and one from the Taliban-allied Haqqani network were executed in Kabul’s Pule Charkhi prison, Afghanistan’s spy agency said, releasing their photographs.
Most of them were convicted of militant strikes across Afghanistan, including one charged with facilitating the 2011 assassination of former president Burhanuddin Rabbani.
In its response, the Taliban vowed revenge attacks against government offices responsible for carrying out the executions.
The Taliban, which announced the start of their annual spring offensive on April 12, have already stepped up their campaign against the Western-backed Kabul government.
‘Cycle of violence’
In an unusually vitriolic speech last month, Ghani pledged a tough military response against the Taliban and vowed to enforce legal punishments, including executions of convicted militants.
His remarks were in response to a brazen Taliban assault on April 19 on a security services office in the heart of Kabul, seen as the opening salvo in this year’s spring offensive.
The carnage left 64 civilians and military personnel dead and cast a pall over international efforts to jumpstart Pakistan-brokered peace talks, which stalled last summer after the Taliban belatedly confirmed the death of longtime leader Mullah Omar.
Rights groups had pleaded with Ghani to not press ahead with the executions.
“By hastily seeking retribution for the horrific bombings that killed 64 people in Kabul... the government plans to execute those convicted of terror offences will neither bring the victims the justice they deserve, nor Afghanistan the security it needs,” Amnesty International said in a statement last week.
“There is no evidence that the death penalty serves as a deterrent, and there are fears that it will only serve to perpetuate a cycle of violence without tackling any of the root causes.”
Ghani has also threatened diplomatic reprisals against Pakistan if it refuses to take action against insurgent havens on its soil.
Ghani’s remarks reflected his frustration after he expended substantial political capital since coming to power in 2014 in courting Pakistan in the hope of pressuring the militants to the negotiating table.
The Pakistani government recently admitted, after years of official denial, that the Taliban leadership enjoys safe haven inside the country.