KABUL: A Taliban armed group has taken responsibility for the killing of a comic this week in Afghanistan’s southern province of Kandahar, raising the spectre of revenge killings as the US-led foreign forces are about to complete their pullout from the war-torn country.
A video of two men slapping and abusing Nazar Mohammad, better known as Khasha Zwan, spread widely on social media. He was later killed, shot multiple times. Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid acknowledged that the two men were Taliban.
The men have been arrested and will be tried, Mujahid said. He alleged that the comic, from the southern part of Kandahar province, was also a member of the Afghan National Police and had been implicated in the torture and killing of Taliban.
Mujahid said the Taliban should have arrested the comic and brought him before a Taliban court, instead of killing him.
Mohammad was not a TV personality but would post his routines on TikTok. He was known for crude jokes, funny songs, poking fun at himself, and often making fun of topics thrown at him from fans.
The brutality of the killing heightened fears of revenge attacks. It also undermined the Taliban’s assurances that no harm would come to people who worked for the government, with the US military or with US organisations.
In a statement on Wednesday, Hamid Karzai, Afghanistan’s former president, strongly condemned “the killing of Khasha by individuals related to the Taliban” and called it an act “against all human rights acts and orders of Islam.”
Mohsin Dawar, a prominent liberal Pakistani Pashtun lawmaker, said on Twitter: “A man who brought smiles to many was killed brutally for being who he was. The world watches as the Taliban continue with their atrocities against Afghans.”
According to US watchdog group SIGAR, the Afghan government faces an “existential crisis” after the Taliban doubled its attacks following the February 2020 agreement with the US.
The deal called for the withdrawal of US forces in exchange for security guarantees from the Taliban, ending the United States’ longest overseas war. The armed group largely honoured the agreement as it avoided targeting US forces, but it continued attacks against Afghan forces.
The report (PDF), published on Thursday, said Taliban attacks on Afghan targets surged from 6,700 in the three months up to the Doha agreement to 13,242 in the September-November 2020 period.