Torched Afghan Villagers Fear Return of Taliban Detainee

Thursday, 05 Jun 2014 06:59 AM

By Elliot Jager

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There is dread among the villagers who suffered atrocities at the hands of Mohammed Fazl over the release of the Taliban ex-deputy defense minister from Guantanamo, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Fazl, one of five senior Taliban commanders exchanged for captive U.S. Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl, received a warm welcome upon his arrival in Qatar. He is arguably the most dangerous of the men released and is expected to now take on a political role with the Taliban, according to the Journal.

Fazl led a scorched-earth offensive against rival Northern Alliance forces in 1999 that pushed hundreds of thousands to abandon their homes, the Journal said, citing studies of war crimes and atrocities during wars in Afghanistan and human rights reports.

While all sides in the civil war between the Taliban and its rivals committed atrocities, Fazl personally commanded men that carried out documented war crimes and was present at a massacre in Bamyan province in January 2001, the Journal reported.

The Northern Alliance tried to oust the Taliban who had taken power in Kabul. It, too, was composed of Islamists but the group differed in ethnic background and was supported by different foreign governments. The Taliban was ousted by the United States, which invaded the country in retaliation for the 9/11 attacks by al-Qaida.

Memories are still painful 15 years on.

Locals recall that in 1999 the Taliban despoiled the vineyards of Shomali, then renowned for its grapes, when they took the area from the Northern Alliance. They methodically destroyed villages, detonating houses, setting fields ablaze, and mining the land with explosives.

"There was not a single undamaged house or garden," Masjidi Fatehzada, a shopkeeper, told the Journal. "My entire shop was burned to the ground. There was nothing left."

A farmer, Khwaja Mohammad, told the newspaper that Fazl's forces took his son who was on his way to the bazaar to purchase supplies for the family and threw him in jail for almost three years.

A former Northern Alliance fighter, Dil Agha, said that when he came back to his village it had been "completely destroyed" with not "a single building" left standing, according to the Journal.

Khwaja Gul Ahmad, a farmer whose son was killed in a Taliban assault, told a Journal reporter at the boy's grave that he worried Fazl would return to "burn our houses again."

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