Taliban fighters are pictured in a vehicle along the roadside in Herat, Afghanistan, Aug 10, 2021. (Stock image)

August 18, 2022

A rebel Taliban commander from Afghanistan’s minority Shia Hazara community was killed while attempting to flee to Iran, the defense ministry said Wednesday, denying local reports suggesting he was murdered in captivity.

Mahdi Mujahid’s split with the Taliban leadership in June is the highest-profile public division seen in the group since they returned to power in August last year.

He was appointed intelligence chief of Bamiyan province at the time, but months later was sacked following a dispute local media attributed to control of the lucrative coal trade.

Mujahid went on the run in June after the Taliban sent thousands of troops to crush his followers.

Days of fighting raged, with the United Nations estimating at least 27,000 people were displaced by the violence.

Afghanistan’s mostly Shia ethnic Hazaras have faced persecution for decades, and Mujahid’s appointment was initially seen as supporting the Taliban’s claim of being more inclusive to non-Pashtuns.

On Wednesday, officials said border forces identified Mujahid in Herat province, near the frontier with Iran, and “punished him for his deeds.”

“He didn’t have anyone with him,” provincial information officer Naeemul Haq Haqqani told AFP, adding he was “killed after a conflict.”

Pictures circulating on social media, however, purported to show Mujahid alive and in custody. Haqqani dismissed those reports.

“Rumors that this person was captured alive are lies,” he said.

The Taliban were accused of abuses against the Hazaras when they first ruled Afghanistan from 1996 to 2001.

AFP

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Track Persia is a Platform run by dedicated analysts who spend much of their time researching the Middle East, in due process we fall upon many indications of growing expansionary ambitions on the part of Iran in the MENA region and the wider Islamic world. These ambitions commonly increase tensions and undermine stability.