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UN claims Taliban killed scores of former govt. officials; group yet to respond

Afghan National Army personnel march during a 2020 graduation ceremony. (Photo by AP)

The Taliban and its allies have allegedly killed more than 100 former Afghan government members, security personnel and people who worked with the international military contingent in Afghanistan, claims a new report by the United Nations.

“Despite announcements of general amnesties for former members of the government, security forces and those who worked with international military forces, UNAMA continued to receive credible allegations of killings, enforced disappearances, and other violations towards these individuals,” the report by the UN secretary-general Antonio Guterres claims, without presenting any evidence.

Since the Taliban swept to power in the war-ravaged country in August last year, the UN mission in Afghanistan has received more than 100 reports of such killings, the report alleges.

More than two-thirds of those killings were “extra-judicial killings committed by the de facto authorities or their affiliates”, it states, adding that “human rights defenders and media workers continue to come under attack, intimidation, harassment, arbitrary arrest, ill-treatment and killings.”

The UN report details a government clampdown on anti-Taliban protests, and adds that “an entire complex social and economic system is shutting down” in the war-torn South Asian country.

The Taliban leadership has not responded to the report so far and the veracity of the claims made by the world body cannot be independently verified.

Afghanistan has been in the grip of a major humanitarian disaster, worsened by the freezing of assets worth billions of dollars by the international community.

Since last August, international aid, which financed nearly 80 percent of the war-ravaged country’s budget, has been suspended and nearly $9.5 billion in assets belonging to Afghanistan’s central bank have been frozen by Washington, contributing to the pitiable plight of millions of Afghans.  

This is while unemployment has skyrocketed in the country and civil servants' salaries have not been paid for months, as banks are out of cash and the government is grappling with dearth of funds.

Amid the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian situation, hunger now threatens 23 million Afghans, or 55 percent of the total population, according to the UN.

The UN report comes in the wake of Guterres' call for the release of Afghan assets. He warned last week that Afghanistan was “hanging by a thread” as millions were struggling to survive.

“It would be a mistake to submit the people of Afghanistan to a collective punishment just because the de facto authorities are not behaving properly,” he remarked on January 21 while addressing the grave humanitarian situation in the country.

The UN chief made a passionate appeal to the international community to “step up support for the people of Afghanistan,” including by releasing funds frozen by the World Bank and the US government.

"We need to suspend the rules and conditions that constrict not only Afghanistan's economy, but our lifesaving operations. At this moment of maximum need, these rules must be seriously reviewed," Guterres said, in an apparent reference to the unilateral sanctions imposed by the US on Afghanistan.

Last week, representatives of the Taliban-led interim government and Western diplomats held three-day talks in Norway to discuss the rapidly deteriorating humanitarian crisis in the country and push for the release of assets frozen by the US and its allies.

The closed-door meeting between the Taliban delegation led by the group’s top diplomat Amir Khan Muttaqi and representatives of the US, France, Germany, Italy, the UK, Norway and the European Union came as millions of people in the crisis-stricken country stare at death and starvation.

"We are requesting them to unfreeze Afghan assets and not punish ordinary Afghans because of the political discourse," Taliban delegate Shafiullah Azam was quoted as saying.

"Because of the starvation, because of the deadly winter, I think it's time for the international community to support Afghans, not punish them because of their political disputes."

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