Taliban commander behind Ghor executions was freed from prison 3 months ago

According to the Afghanistan Times, a Taliban commander who was freed from prison three months ago was behind the execution of at least 14 civilians in the central province of Ghor:

At least 10 days after killing of 14 civilians by armed men in western Ghor province, the governor of Ghor said Saturday that the Taliban’s commander who was released from a jail in Ghor by the meddling of some known figures including parliament members three months ago was involved in killing of civilians in this province.

“The Taliban’s commander named as Qari Rahmatullah was held by security forces in Chighchiran city but was freed later by meddling of some known figures including a number of parliament members,” Radio Azadi quoted Sayid Anwar Rahmati, the governor of Ghor as saying. “The commander was released three months ago and was living in Dara-i-Murghab district.”

The governor blamed judiciaries’ inattention behind releasing of the Taliban’s commander, and said some prominent figures including parliament members had interfered in releasing of Qari Rahmatullah.

In the meantime, Ghor police chief, Fahim Qayim, said he was agreed with the governor’s remarks and they would try to once again arrest the Taliban’s commander, Qari Rahmatullah.

A number of Ghor representatives in the parliament confirmed the allegations that the Taliban’s commander was released by the meddling of some parliament members.

“The allegations reveal that two members of the Lower House, a senator and the head of High Peace Council in Ghor have cooperated to release the Taliban’s commander from a prison in the province, and this commander later killed 14 civilians in this province. There is no doubt that such people and figures who are arrested on charges of bombing or any other subversive activity are released in cooperation of the government,” said Ruqiya Nayil and Sima Juyinda, two MPs from Ghor.

It is unclear if Rahmatullah, the freed Taliban commander, was involved in the Taliban’s takeover of Char Sada in July.

Rahmatullah is the latest Taliban commander to have been identified after returning to the fight. Maulawi Ghulam Mohammad, a veteran Taliban commander who served in the group prior to the US invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, promptly returned to the fight in Badghis province after being released from prison last year.

The most prominent is Mullah Zakir, who was detained in 2001 and held at Guantanamo Bay, and then transferred to Afghan custody and promptly freed in 2007. Zakir quickly returned to the fight, and by 2009 was identified as the Afghan Taliban’s “surge commander”; he was responsible for countering the US’ surge of forces in the south starting in 2009. Zakir served as the Taliban’s top military commander before stepping aside earlier this year. [See LWJ reports, The Taliban’s surge commander was Gitmo detainee, and Former Gitmo detainee leads top Taliban council, and Head of Taliban’s military commission resigns due to ‘ill health’ for more information on Zakir.]

Earlier this summer, the US released five dangerous Taliban commanders from Guantanamo Bay. The five commanders, who are closely tied to al Qaeda, are to remain in Qatar for the next year. The Taliban celebrated their release as a major victory. After they leave Qatar, there are no assurances these commanders won’t return to the Taliban, just as other top leaders and commanders have done in the past. [See LWJ reports, Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl exchanged for top 5 Taliban commanders at Gitmo, and Taliban says ‘five senior leaders’ have been ‘liberated’ from Guantanamo, for more information.]

Bill Roggio is a Senior Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and the Editor of FDD's Long War Journal.

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