Taliban fighters hunting door-to-door for a journalist working for the German state broadcaster shot dead a member of his family, the network has said, amid warnings that the militant group is targeting a blacklist of “collaborators” for retribution.
News of the killing came as an intelligence assessment warned that Taliban leaders had ordered militants to round up people who had worked for Western forces or the toppled Afghan government, and has cast further doubt on the Taliban’s claim since seizing power that there would be “no revenge.”
The broadcaster, DW, reported that one of the man’s relatives had been killed and another seriously injured on Wednesday, as the militants targeted an editor who now lives in Germany.
"The killing of a close relative of one of our editors by the Taliban yesterday is inconceivably tragic, and testifies to the acute danger in which all our employees and their families in Afghanistan find themselves," said DW Director General Peter Limbourg. "It is evident that the Taliban are already carrying out organized searches for journalists, both in Kabul and in the provinces."
The network did not reveal the name of the man or location of his family, due to the ongoing risk they face. It revealed that the Taliban had raided the homes of at least three more of its journalists in Afghanistan.
The militant fundamentalist group has publicly sought to portray a more moderate face since its lightning-fast return to power, pledging an amnesty to those who worked with the previous Western-backed Afghan government, pledging to uphold a “free and independent” media, and protect women's rights in accordance with Islamic law.
But those assurances appear increasingly at odds with reality, amid reports that Afghans desperate to flee are being repeatedly blocked from reaching Kabul airport by Taliban checkpoints, and warnings that the group was methodically hunting down “collaborators” identified on a blacklist.
A threat assessment by the RHIPTO Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, an intelligence group which shares its assessments with the UN, said that the Taliban was “intensifying the hunt-down” of Afghans who worked for NATO forces or the fallen Afghan government.
"There are a high number of individuals that are currently being targeted by the Taliban and the threat is crystal clear," Christian Nellemann, the centre’s director, told the BBC.
He said that Taliban soldiers were going to the homes of family members of those on the list, threatening them that they faced punishment under Sharia – Islamic law – unless their relatives gave themselves up, and warned that those on the list were in grave danger, facing torture or execution if found.
"It is in writing that, unless they give themselves in, the Taliban will arrest and prosecute, interrogate and punish family members on behalf of those individuals."
The warnings came as a new Amnesty International report was released documenting the Taliban massacre of nine men from Afghanistan’s persecuted Hazara minority last month. The atrocities reportedly took place in a village in Ghazni province after the militants took control of the region last month; six of the men were shot, and three tortured to death, in what Amnesty International Secretary General Agnés Callamard described as a potential sign of what lay in store for Afghanistan.
“The cold-blooded brutality of these killings is a reminder of the Taliban’s past record, and a horrifying indicator of what Taliban rule may bring,” she said.
The Hazara are Afghanistan's third largest ethnic group, and as a mostly–Shia Muslim minority in a Sunni-dominated country, have long faced persecution.