Gunfire erupts. At least a dozen men are seen shot to death amid cries of “Allahu Akhbar” — God is Great.
The victims were members of an Afghan Special Forces unit: their executioners, the Taliban. The summary killings took place on June 16 in the town of Dawlat Abad in Faryab province, close to Afghanistan’s border with Turkmenistan.
CNN has obtained and verified several videos of the incident and has spoken with witnesses.
Videos show the commandos’ bodies strewn across an outdoor market. After a fierce battle to hold the town, they the commandos had run out of ammunition and were surrounded by the Taliban fighters, witnesses said.
In one video, about 45 seconds long, a bystander can be heard saying in Pashto, the local language: “Don’t shoot them, don’t shoot them, I beg you don’t shoot them.” The bystander then asks: “How are you Pashtun killing Afghans?” The Pashtuns are the main ethnic group in Afghanistan.
At the end of the video, another voice off-camera says: “Take everything off them.”
In another video, a man can be heard saying: “Open his body armor.” One fighter can be seen taking equipment off the body of one of the commandos.
The Red Cross confirmed the bodies of 22 commandos were retrieved.
The killing of the soldiers stands in stark contrast to the Taliban’s efforts to show it is accepting the surrender of soldiers and, in some instances, paying them to go home as it makes territorial gains across Afghanistan.
The Taliban posted a video three days after the fighting in Dawlat Abad, showing the seizure of military trucks and weapons. The video claimed that “the Washington guards, a CIA specially trained special commando who had been pursuing the Taliban in Dawlat Abad, Faryab, were captured alive by the Taliban, disarmed and handcuffed.”
The Taliban told CNN the videos showing the commandos being shot were fake and government propaganda to encourage people not to surrender. A Taliban spokesman said they were still holding 24 commandos who had been captured in Faryab province but provided no evidence.
The Afghan Ministry of Defense denied the Taliban was holding the commandos and told CNN they were killed.