Afghanistan executes 15 prisoners by gunfire

Afghanistan executed 15 inmates by gunfire at its main prison outside Kabul, carrying out the death penalty for the first time in more than three years, the chief of prisons said Monday.

Afghanistan executed 15 inmates by gunfire at its main prison outside Kabul, carrying out the death penalty for the first time in more than three years, the chief of prisons said Monday.

A soldier of the Afghan National Army guards a street as the body of a prisoner is transported to his home for burial in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Tuesday. ((Rafiq Maqbool/Associated Press))

The mass execution took place Sunday evening according to Afghan law, which calls for condemned prisoners to be shot to death, said Abdul Salam Ismat.

Afghanistan's hardline Taliban used to carry out executions in public, many of them at the war-shattered Kabul stadium, but the practice stopped after the regime was ousted from power by the U.S.-led coalition in late 2001.

The killings are the country's first state-sanctioned executions since April 2004.

No comment from Karzai

Amnesty International said after the 2004 execution that Afghan President Hamid Karzai had assured the group there would be a moratorium on the death penalty.

Karzai's spokesman, Humayun Hamidzada, refused comment Monday, saying there would be an announcement on state TV Monday evening.

Last week, Hamidzada told the Associated Press that Karzai "takes extreme care in execution cases."

"He has been holding on to these cases because he wants to make sure that the justice is served and the due process is complete. He personally does not like executions, but Afghan law asks for it, and he will obey the laws," he said.

The mass executions are likely to complicate the relationships some NATO countries with military forces here have with Afghanistan. International troops often take militants prisoner and later hand them over to the Afghan government, but some countries will not be allowed to do that if Afghanistan is known to carry out capital punishment.

Roughly 2,500 Canadian soldiers are serving in the violent Kandahar region as part of a NATO-led mission.

Violent Monday

In violence Monday, 16 militants fighting under a wanted Uzbek warlord with a $200,000 bounty on his head were killed in air strikes in eastern Afghanistan.

Separately, an Afghan child who apparently walked onto a NATO training site was killed, officials said Monday.

A roadside bomb killed a soldier in the NATO-led force in Uruzgan province, said Maj. Charles Anthony, spokesman for NATO's International Security Assistance Force. Australian and Dutch troops make up the majority of troops in Uruzgan.

Also in Uruzgan, two Dutch Apache helicopters were hit by enemy fire Monday, the Dutch Defence Ministry said in a statement. Both landed safely and their crews were not injured.