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Taliban kill estranged Hazara commander ‘trying to flee to Iran’

  • Sun Online Desk
  • 19th August, 2022 08:32:38 PM
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Taliban kill estranged Hazara commander ‘trying to flee to Iran’

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The Taliban’s lone Hazara Shia commander, who reportedly parted ways with the Islamic emirate a couple of months ago, was killed as he attempted to flee the country, the defence ministry said in a statement.

Mawlawi Mahdi Mujahid was shot dead by Taliban forces near the border with Iran, officials confirmed to Reuters on Wednesday, adding that he had rebelled against the de facto government.After the Taliban formed a government last year, Mahdi was given the post of intelligence chief in Bamiyan province. But months later, he was sacked following a dispute local media attributed to control of the lucrative coal trade. Mujahid went on the run in June after the Taliban sent thousands of troops to crush his loyalists.

The origins of the breach between Mahdi and the Taliban have not been made public, but as far back as June, the defence ministry had spoken of a clearance operation against rebels in northern Afghanistan.On Wednes­day, officials said border forces identified Mujahid in Herat province, near the frontier with Iran, and “punished him for his deeds”.

The defence ministry on Wednesday described Mahdi as a the “leader of the rebels” in a district in the northern province of Sar-e-Pul.

“He didn’t have anyone with him,” provincial information officer Naeemul Haq Haqqani told AFP, adding he was “killed after a conflict”.

Pictures circulating on social media, however, purported to show Mujahid alive and in custody. Haqqani dismissed those reports.

“Rumours that this person was captured alive are lies,” he said.

Mahdi’s appointment as a commander some years ago was touted as an example of the Taliban’s changed on stance on minorities. He was in the spotlight after the Taliban took control of Afghanistan in the wake of the pullout of western forces last year.

The Taliban are hardline followers of the Sunni branch of Islam, and were previously almost exclusively associated with the Pakhtun ethnicity. More recently, the group had sought to include members of other ethnicities. The Hazara, native to Afghanistan’s central mountains, are the country’s largest mainly Shia ethnic group.

Source: Dawn, Pakistan.