A manhunt was under way yesterday for Taliban militants who publicly executed a woman accused of adultery, Afghan authorities said, as outrage mounted after a video of the cold-blooded killing surfaced.
The commander of NATO’s 130,000 troops in Afghanistan, International Security Assistance Force Commander General John Allen, offered to help local security forces track and capture the men involved in what he called “an atrocity of unspeakable cruelty.”
The brutal shooting of the lone woman before a cheering mob of men is shown in graphic detail in a video of the event in a village in Parwan Province about 100km north of the capital, Kabul.
“We have sent a police force to the area,” Parwan Governor Basir Salangi said, adding that the government had no permanent presence in the valley. “They are searching for the Taliban who are responsible, but the Taliban, including the killer, have fled to the mountains.”
Salangi’s spokeswoman, Roshna Khalid, separately said the 22-year-old woman, named as Najiba, was married to a member of the hardline Islamist Taliban and was accused of adultery with a Taliban commander.
“Within one hour, they decided that she was guilty and sentenced her to death. They shot her in front of villagers in her village, Qol,” she said.
Public executions of alleged adulterers were common when the Taliban regime was in power from 1996 until 2001, when they were ousted by a US-led invasion for harboring then-al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
The video also drew international condemnation, with British Foreign Secretary William Hague saying he was “shocked and disgusted” by the execution.
“Such deplorable actions underline the vital need for better protection of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan,” he said.
The Afghan government condemned the killing as “un-Islamic and inhuman,” ordering police to find and bring to justice those responsible.
The video opens with the woman, wrapped in a gray shawl, sitting at the edge of a ditch in a village surrounded by dozens of men, some perched on rooftops for a better view.
As she sits with her back to the crowd a bearded man is seen reading verses from the Koran condemning adultery, before saying: “We cannot forgive her, God tells us to finish her.”
The video then shows a man in white being handed an AK-47 rifle. Some local reports said the shooter was the woman’s husband, but Khalid said that he was a relative of the victim’s husband.
The executioner approaches to within a few meters of the woman, says Allahu Akbar (“God is great”), and fires a total of 13 shots as the crowd cheers wildly, shouting: “Long live Islam,” “Long live mujahidin”.