In what is being called the largest-scale assault by the Taliban since it replaced its former leader with Mawlawi Hibatullah Akhundzada, at several buses in Afghanistan were forced to stop on their way from Kabul to Badakhshan. Armed gunman ordered more than 185 the passengers to get off before killing at least 9 and abducting at least 35. Authorities were able to free 160 of them.
“There is still no report on the fate of the remaining hostages with the Taliban,” said Mahmood Danish, the provincial governor’s spokesman.
According to AFP news agency the militants held passengers in a local mosque and tried to determine if any of them had connections to the government. A police officer is said to have been one of the 9 victims killed.
Hayatullah Quareshi, the Aliabad district chief, said the attackers were wearing Afghan army uniforms. Both Quareshi and Danish blamed the Taliban, even though the group has yet to claim responsibility for the attack.
The Taliban announced the appointment of Akhundzada last month after the killing of its former leader Akhtar Mohammad Mansou, allegedly in a drone strike on his car in Pakistan’s Balochistan province on May 21st. Akhundzada has been a senior member of Taliban courts for years and has reportedly been an advocate of traditional Islamic punishments such as public executions and the severing of hands. The Taliban claimed the decision was unanimous, but it also caused a faction within the group to break away and reject him as a leader and representative. However, analysts say it is unlikely the general direction or activities of the organization will change significantly under Akhundzada.