Taliban Demands Coronavirus Protection for Jailed Jihadis

An Afghan National Army (ANA) soldier stands guard outside the Bagram prison gate, some 50 kms north of Kabul on Fabruary 13, 2014. Afghanistan released 65 alleged Taliban fighters from jail despite condemnation from the United States, which says the men could return to the battlefield to launch strikes against …
SHAH MARAI/AFP via Getty Images

The Taliban issued a statement on Wednesday claiming that 46 of its fighters have contracted the Wuhan coronavirus while imprisoned by the Afghan government and vowing to seek revenge if any of them died.

The Taliban statement, as quoted by the Khaama Press Agency, also threatened to hold the United States responsible for not moving quickly enough to free all Taliban operatives from Afghan jails:

We had previously warned that the prisoner situation in the Kabul administration jails is dire as facilities are packed and there are widespread issues regarding food, drink and medicine availability therefore if the novel coronavirus were to enter these prisons, it could prove catastrophic.

Responsibility here falls squarely on the shoulders of the United States of America because if it had shown urgency in the implementation of the agreement, we could have made major progress in all facets including the release of prisoners and detainees would have been saved from this danger.

The Kabul administration officials along with the supposed human right organizations and those raising humanitarian slogans all failed at taking this issue seriously and have pushed the situation to the brink. The Islamic Emirate has serious concerns about the health of its prisoners and calls on the various international right organizations to not treat this humanitarian issue in a tactful or political manner, but to properly execute their responsibilities in saving the lives of human beings. 

All sides must understand that if the prisoners of the Islamic Emirate are lost, each one will be asked about and revenge taken upon the cold-hearted enemy.

“Islamic Emirate” is the Taliban’s preferred name for itself, calling back to the days when it controlled the government of Afghanistan.

The Taliban has made the most of the coronavirus as a political and propaganda opportunity, running an ostentatious health campaign and promising not to kill healthcare workers who enter areas under its control, as it previously had a habit of doing. 

Long suspicious of Western medicine as a conspiracy to poison its fighters, the Taliban changed course when the coronavirus pandemic hit and began loudly demanding cooperation with medical personnel from Afghans under its control, although there were some reports of continuing reluctance by the Taliban extremists to allow women to visit doctors.

The Taliban claims it is fully cooperating with the World Health Organization and medical teams sent by the government in Kabul while using the pandemic to tighten its control over villages and constantly criticizing the government for an inadequate pandemic response.

Taliban fighters might have sworn off murdering doctors and nurses, but they do not seem reluctant to shoot at anyone else loyal to Kabul. For that matter, the government of President Ashraf Ghani reports Taliban jihadis are still harassing health care workers despite their claims to the contrary.

The Chinese government on Wednesday pledged to send more coronavirus assistance to Afghanistan as the number of confirmed infections approaches 2,000.

“Based on the new demand of Afghanistan for fighting the epidemic, the Chinese embassy in Kabul has arranged another charter flight to deliver the second batch of anti-epidemic materials assistance to Afghanistan,” said Wang Yu, China’s ambassador to Afghanistan.

“The materials we are going to hand over are from China International Development Cooperation Agency and other Chinese organizations. This batch includes more materials than the first batch, including test kits, medical protective masks, surgical masks, protective clothing, protective goggles and infrared temperature guns. The total materials are in 727 boxes, weighing 7.2 tons,” Wang said.

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