The man who survived a Taliban roadblock

  • Published
Image caption,
Abdul says he saw evidence of a killing ground

An Afghan student has told the BBC how he narrowly escaped with his life after being stopped and threatened at a Taliban roadblock near Kunduz.

Abdul (not his full name) suffered a hand injury. He says he escaped after a young Taliban fighter his own age intervened on his behalf.

The Taliban have been accused by human rights group Amnesty International of killings and abuses following their capture of Kunduz, the northern city they held for several days last week before Afghan security forces moved in to drive them out.

Abdul was on his way home to the northern province of Takhar, after spending his Eid holiday in Kabul.

He wanted to return to his studies and ignored warnings the journey would be too dangerous, saying the authorities suggested they were back in control in Kunduz.

Image source, EPA
Image caption,
Government forces say they are back in control - inside Kunduz at least...
Image source, EPA
Image caption,
... but people were still fleeing sporadic fighting in the city on Tuesday

The route from Kabul to Takhar goes through Kunduz and thousands of people have been stranded in the wake of the fighting.

Abdul set off on Sunday, a week after Taliban insurgents took over Kunduz. It was the first time the group had captured a provincial capital since they were ousted from power in 2001.

"When I took a car, the driver told me not to worry because he knew people with the Taliban," Abdul told the BBC in the interview in Takhar.

"Throughout the journey, the driver was talking to people who seemed to be Taliban on the phone and assured me that nothing would happen."

Abdul still appeared to be traumatised as he recounted what happened next, clutching his arm with his thumb in a thick bandage.

He says that when the car entered Kunduz, he saw the Afghan flag on a roundabout but there was no one from the Afghan government in sight,

Image source, AP
Image caption,
The Taliban were in control of the city for several days - and still control nearby areas

The driver was supposed to take his passengers directly to Takhar - but instead dropped them off on the northern outskirts of the city, where they had to find another vehicle.

It was on the way out of the city when Abdul got really worried as the area appeared to be under Taliban control.

"From then onwards on the road to Takhar there were Talibs everywhere," he recounted. "I saw dead bodies along the roadside. They smelled bad. Many looked no more than 20 years old."

After passing two roadblocks, the car was stopped and Taliban insurgents began to question the passengers.

"They asked us what we were doing here, and I said I had been in Kabul for treatment because I was not feeling well."

'Killing ground'

The passengers were taken to a nearby hotel which the Taliban had made their base and where the questioning continued.

Abdul, whose account cannot be independently verified, says he was kicked in the back twice and accused of working for the government.

"I told them I wasn't, but however much I cried and shouted, they would not let me go."

He said there was a stream outside where the insurgent group appeared to have a killing ground. He says a man had been beheaded there.

Such testimony chimes with a report by Amnesty International last week which spoke of "mass murder, gang rapes and house-to-house searches by Taliban death squads" in Kunduz, based on civilian accounts collected by the human rights watchdog from people fleeing the city.

The Taliban by contrast sent out messages of reassurance, saying that civilians and their property would be respected and there was nothing to fear.

Abdul's story contradicts this.

He says he himself was then taken outside.

"They dropped me there and put a knife to my neck. I tried to grab the knife and they cut my finger."

Abdul recounts how his friend started crying as soon as the Taliban produced the knife and shouted "Allahu Akbar" ("God is great").

It was then that one of the insurgents, a young man roughly Abdul's age, started to become emotional himself and intervened.

"He asked me whether I had done anything wrong," Abdul says. "I said: 'No.' I told them that I'd do whatever they wanted, that I would even join them because I was so scared."

For whatever reason, Abdul was spared and "told to go and not look back". He says his hand bled all the way to Takhar, where a doctor treated the wound with 10 stitches.

"Whenever I see a knife now I feel faint," he says.

Abdul accuses the authorities of not telling the truth about the security situation in Kunduz.

"My only advice to the government is: Don't lie, because people will misunderstand and think Kunduz is under control, and that could cost lives."

Read more on the battle for Kunduz: