|The six-year rule of Taliban -- hardliner religious students whose regime was overthrown as a result of the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan in 2001 -- once again resounded in the country's southern zone, as an alleged murderer was publicly executed by the dissidents.
Taliban, or students of religious seminaries, who occupied 95 percent of Afghanistan in 1996 and ruled the country until November 2001, used to execute people accused of murder, chopped hands of (alleged) thieves and stone to death people found involved in adultery.
Despite the heavy presence of U.S. and NATO forces in the country and an elected government in place under the leadership of President Hamid Karzai, Taliban are still fighting a guerrilla war and enjoy sway in the southern and eastern zone of Afghanistan.
On Saturday, the proof of their clout in the southern zone emerged when the Taliban publicly executed a man accused of murder. The act was carried out in Helmand province, where more than 3,000 British troops are operating as part of the NATO peacekeeping mission.
Taliban leaders gathered people from some villages and brought the man, whose name was not disclosed, to the site blindfolded. Then a bearded man, surrounded by heavily armed young men, delivered a long sermon in the local Pashto language asking people to do virtue and avoid vice.
Later, the man was hanged from a tree and the Taliban leader warned the others that they would face the same fate in case of committing murder. The Taliban had earned notoriety for such acts during their regime.
The public execution was carried out at a time when NATO forces are striving hard to extend the writ of the Afghan government to the lawless southern region. The southern provinces of Afghanistan -- including Kandahar, Helmand, Zabul, Ghazni and Uruzgan -- are considered the strongest bases of Taliban and their strength is increasing day by day in those areas.
Qari Yousaf Ahmadi, a man describing himself spokesman for the Taliban, confirmed the killing of the man. He said he was found guilty by their shura, an assembly of Taliban religious scholars, and was awarded the capital punishment.
Residents of the area, where the execution was carried out, also confirmed that they witnessed a man being hanged, but officials in the province said they were not aware of any such incident.
Afghan officials in the southern provinces usually remain in fear of their own lives as Taliban target supporters of the U.S.-backed government in Afghanistan. This is the eleventh public execution by the Taliban since 2001.