Gunmen rounded up and shot dozens of civilians in a remote part of , UN officials have said, in an attack that prompted angry protests from residents about the government’s failure to protect them.
The provincial governor’s spokesman blamed for the killings in the central-western province of Ghor, but there has been no independent confirmation of this. The militant group’s activities have hitherto been largely confined to the eastern province of Nangarhar, and other officials said they doubted it was involved.
Government security forces have long struggled to exert control in Ghor, a poor and mountainous province with sharp ethnic and tribal divisions and illegal armed groups that operate with impunity.
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The United Nations, condemning the incident as an “atrocity”, said 26 men had been killed by unidentified gunmen after being taken hostage while collecting firewood. It said the fate of other hostages remained unknown. Taliban insurgents denied responsibility and said the killings appeared to have been prompted by ethnic rivalries fuelled by a clash over sheep-stealing.
Local reports said those killed were Kuchi nomads. Estimates of the number of dead varied, with the governor’s spokesman Abdul Hai Khatibi putting the total at about 30, the Taliban saying 36, and some local people saying it was as high as 42.
“Afghan police killed a Daesh [Islamic State] commander in Ghor province during an operation yesterday, but Daesh fighters abducted some 30 civilians from near the provincial capital and shot them all dead in revenge,” Khatibi said on Wednesday. He said the killings followed an attack by the militant group on Tuesday near Feroz Koh, the capital of Ghor.
Hundreds of people gathered in the town as bodies were prepared for burial and some residents demanded government action. “Our demand to the local and central government is to bombard and destroy the terrorist nests in this province,” said a protester, Haji Abdul Samad. “If the government doesn’t pay attention to our civil movements, then we will use the power of our youth to destroy the terrorist nests.“
Amnesty International described the killings as a “horrendous crime” and called for an immediate investigation by the government. The killings underline the lack of security across Afghanistan, which has seen not only the Taliban insurgency and Isis violence, but by a wider breakdown in law and order as government control has weakened.