Afghan villagers devastated by a roadside bomb that killed 18 people, most of them women and children, hunted down the man they believed set the explosives and beat him to death, officials have said.
The killing took place in a Ghazni Province, south of Kabul, and marked a rare reprisal for a Taliban attack. Most Afghans in rural areas, where the group holds sway, are either sympathetic to the militant group’s aims or have been cowed into silent acquiescence.
The violence began with a blast on Sunday afternoon that ripped apart a minibus full of wedding guests arriving from a neighboring village. Only five survived and they were badly injured. Among the dead were 14 women and girls, one teenage boy and three men.
Villagers rushed to the site of the explosion in the province’s Andar District and amid the devastation found a set of footprints leading to the nearby home of a suspected Taliban sympathizer.
“When they saw the trail on the ground, because it is all farming fields round there, they could follow the footprints to his house,” mullah Maulavi Abdul Hakim said.
The owner of the house, whom Hakim and Deputy Provincial Governor Mohammad Ali Ahmadi identified as Mohammad Asef, was already a village outcast because of his reluctance last year to join an uprising against the Taliban.
On that occasion, dozens of men took an unexpected stand against the insurgents, throwing their weight behind rival commanders with no official position, but with cash and political support from Kabul. However, villagers believed that Asef stood apart.
“In the area, there is no Taliban, because the people of this village are against them,” Andar Police Chief Haji Mohammad said. “Only this [Asef’s] house, they suspected, had connections with the Taliban. They always doubted him.”
The angry crowd rushed to the house and surged inside, where they ransacked the rooms and finally found Asef trying to hide in a chicken coop. Inside one room the searchers also found wires and electronics of the sort they believed are used in bombs, Mohammad and Hakim said.
“I tried to interfere, but the people didn’t allow the national police to have control. They brought him out from the house and broke his arms and legs, and after that they started beating him with stones and their hands,” Mohammad said.
Eventually, the man confessed to planting the first bomb and the mob beat and kicked him to death.