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Taliban hang body in public; signal return to past tactics

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The Taliban hanged a dead body from a crane parked in a city square in Afghanistan on Saturday in a gruesome display that signaled the hard-line movement’s return to some of its brutal tactics of the past.

Taliban officials initially brought four bodies to the central square in the western city of Herat, then moved three of them to other parts of the city for public display, said Wazir Ahmad Seddiqi, who runs a pharmacy on the edge of the square.

Taliban officials announced that the four were caught taking part in a kidnapping earlier Saturday and were killed by police, Seddiqi said. Ziaulhaq Jalali, a Taliban-appointed district police chief in Herat, said later that Taliban members rescued a father and son who had been abducted by four kidnappers after an exchange of gunfire. He said a Taliban fighter and a civilian were wounded by the kidnappers, and that the kidnappers were killed in crossfire.

An Associated Press video showed crowds gathering around the crane and peering up at the body as some men chanted.

“The aim of this action is to alert all criminals that they are not safe,” a Taliban commander who did not identify himself told the AP in an on-camera interview conducted in the square.

Since the Taliban overran Kabul on Aug. 15 and seized control of the country, Afghans and the world have been watching to see whether they will re-create their harsh rule of the late 1990s, which included public stonings and limb amputations of alleged criminals, some of which took place in front of large crowds at a stadium.

After one of the Taliban’s founders said in an interview with The Associated Press this past week that the hard-line movement would once again carry out executions and amputations of hands, the U.S. State Department said such acts “would constitute clear gross abuses of human rights.”

Spokesman Ned Price told reporters Friday at his briefing that the United States would “stand firm with the international community to hold perpetrators of these — of any such abuses — accountable.”

The Taliban’s leaders remain entrenched in a deeply conservative, hard-line worldview, even if they are embracing technological changes, such as video and mobile phones.

“Everyone criticized us for the punishments in the stadium, but we have never said anything about their laws and their punishments,” Mullah Nooruddin Turabi said in the AP interview. “No one will tell us what our laws should be. We will follow Islam and we will make our laws on the Quran.”

Also Saturday, a roadside bomb hit a Taliban car in the capital of eastern Nangarhar province, wounding at least one person, a Taliban official said. No one immediately claimed responsibility for the bombing. The Islamic State group affiliate, which is headquartered in eastern Afghanistan, has said it was behind similar attacks in Jalalabad last week that killed 12 people.

The person wounded in the attack is a municipal worker, Taliban spokesperson Mohammad Hanif said.

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