Taliban kill young couple for eloping

April 14, 2009 11:25:26 AM PDT
Taliban gunmen used a firing squad to kill a young couple in southern Afghanistan for trying to elope, shooting them with rifles in front of a crowd in a lawless, militant-controlled region, officials said Tuesday. The woman, Gul Pecha, 19, and the man, Abdul Aziz, 21, were accused by the militants of immoral acts, and a council of conservative clerics decided that the two should be killed, officials said.

The two had fled their homes and hoped to travel to Iran, but their parents sent villagers to bring them home, said Sadiq Chakhansori, the chief of Nimroz' provincial council. Once back home, the pair was either turned over to the Taliban by their parents or the militants came and took them by force, the officials said, providing slightly varying accounts.

Riflemen in the remote district of Khash Rod in the southwestern province of Nimroz shot the man and woman with AK-47s Monday, said Chakhansori.

"Unfortunately Khash Rod is an area that is almost out of the control of the government," said Gov. Ghulam Dastagir Azad. "We don't have coalition or Afghan army forces there like we do in other districts."

In remote and dangerous regions of Afghanistan, Taliban fighters operate what are sometimes referred to as shadow governments, where militant leaders serve as government officials and run their own police units and pseudo court systems.

The Nimroz governor decried the fact that a three-person council of clerics operating outside the state's judicial system would level the death penalty.

"Through legal channels it would take months to prove such a case," Azad said. "How can these people make a decision in four days and kill them? No one has the right to kill anybody without the decision of a court."

Nader Nadery, a spokesman for the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, said the killings was the "worst act against mankind." He said they were "completely against the principles of human rights."

Pecha, the woman, was an ethnic Pashtun from the region and a member of the Sunni sect of Islam, Azad said. Aziz was from the Shiite sect, Azad said, though he didn't know what ethnicity he was.

The conservative Taliban movement ruled Afghanistan from 1996-2001 and put in place harsh social rules that forbade unmarried men and women to talk or meet in public. Women were not allowed out of their homes without a male relative, and girls couldn't go to school.

Taliban fighters have widened their influence the last three years and now control many remote districts in Afghanistan where there are not enough U.S., NATO or Afghan forces to establish a permanent presence.

Responding to commanders' requests for more troops, President Barack Obama recently announced that the U.S. would send 21,000 more troops to the country this summer to bolster the 38,000 U.S. forces already in the country.

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