Kandahar, mass grave found with 21 bodies: UN calls for an investigation
Found in the Spin Boldak district on the border with Pakistan. Human Rights Watch had previously documented the discovery of more than 100 bodies in a canal. Last month, Taliban interference in aid distribution increased. Humanitarian agencies are appealing for more funds: part of the population is in danger of not making it through the winter.
Kabul (AsiaNews) - In the Spin Boldak strait, Kandahar province, a mass grave with at least 21 bodies has been found. The Taliban spokesman for the southern province, Atahullah Zaid, said, without providing evidence, that the victims were killed and buried there nine years ago, when General Abdul Raqi Achakzai - a staunch Taliban opponent who died in an armed attack in 2018 - was head of the provincial police.
The mass grave was found in a border area with Pakistan. A former border guard explained anonymously to Amu.tv that the area is under the tight control of the Taliban and they are most likely the perpetrators of the massacre. Several former members of the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces were killed in Spin Boldak when the Taliban retook control of the district in July last year.
Patricia Grossman, Asia director of Human Rights Watch, called for an international investigation: 'It is crucial that all alleged crimes are investigated as part of a process to be carried out according to international standards', and it is important that the Taliban 'prevent acts of revenge'. The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Afghanistan, Richard Bennett, said it was essential that, pending forensic examination, the remains should not be harmed.
It would not be the first time that the Taliban have engaged in arbitrary killings and then made the bodies disappear: in July this year Human Rights Watch had documented the discovery of more than a hundred corpses in the canal in the eastern province of Nangarhar. According to reconstructions, former Koranic students had conducted night raids to kill anyone suspected of being affiliated with or harbouring members of the Islamic State (Is-K), the terrorist group that considers the Taliban's Islamist agenda lukewarm. However, it is difficult to differentiate between the killings of civilians and former members of the Afghan government, anti-Taliban resistance fighters and Islamic State militiamen.
The Taliban crackdown has increased the number of internally displaced persons (IDPs): according to data from the United Nations Office for Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) - updated last week - more than 30,200 people have left their homes due to widespread violence or environmental disasters during 2022. A high number - to which the displacements in the latter part of the year should be added for comparison - but still significantly lower than the 704,000 displaced in 2021.
Millions of people meanwhile do not have the means to get through another winter: the UN agencies are considered the last 'barrier' between the famine and the Afghan population. In other words, the Taliban have prevented the distribution of aid to the population: Ocha data says that in August interference increased by 39% compared to July, even causing the suspension of some humanitarian programmes.
Economic difficulties afflict 60% of the population, or 24.4 million people. The UN Food Programme is assisting 18 million Afghans in conditions of severe food insecurity, six million of whom are on the brink of famine. At the beginning of the year, humanitarian agencies launched an appeal to raise USD 4.4 billion: nine months later, only 43% of the funds needed have been collected.