Afghan authorities have recovered in the southern province of Zabul the bodies of two Shia Muslims, whom suspected Taliban militants had abducted along with more than two dozen others in late February.
Provincial council chief, Ata Mohammad Haqbin, said the corpses were found in Kakar (also known as Khak-e Afghan) district of the province, located over 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of the capital, Kabul, on Monday.
Haqbin added that one of the victims had been murdered by his captors, while the other one was an old man who had apparently died of fatigue.
On February 23, masked gunmen kidnapped 31 Shia Muslims from the Hazara ethnic community as they were traveling aboard two buses on the road between Kabul and the western city of Herat.
Mohammad Mohaqiq, who is a deputy to Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, said on Saturday that Mullah Abdullah Kaka and his deputy, Mullah Mansur Dadullah, two former Taliban leaders who have declared allegiance to the ISIL Takfiri terrorists, were behind the abductions.
Relatives of the 31 kidnapped Hazaras hold posters during a gathering in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 12, 2015. © AFP
He added that the two militants have simply “changed their white flag” of the Taliban militant group for the black ISIL flag.
Mohaqiq further noted that the kidnapped men from the Hazara ethnic group have now been divided into three or four groups, and are being held in different areas of the rugged Zabul province.
The Hazara community, which accounts for as much as 25 percent of Afghanistan’s population, is often targeted by militants in the country and neighboring Pakistan.
Hazara Shia Muslims pray at Bahaduria Mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan, March 12, 2015. © AFP
Fears have recently been growing over the influence of ISIL in Afghanistan, which has witnessed years of instability despite the presence of foreign troops.
The United States and its allies invaded Afghanistan in 2001 as part of Washington’s so-called war on terror. The offensive removed Taliban from power, but insecurity still remains in some provinces.
The US-led combat mission in Afghanistan ended on December 31, 2014. However, at least 13,500 foreign forces, mainly from the United States, have remained in the country in what Washington calls a support mission.