Death toll from raid on Shia Afghan village ‘hits 60’

Reports say the death toll from a Taliban attack on a remote Shia village in northern Afghanistan has risen to 60.

The civilians, including women and children, were massacred during an attack on the Mirza Olang Village in the northern Sar-e Pol Province overnight Sunday. A number of Afghan security forces were also among the dead.

Fierce fighting began in the area on Thursday when militants, reportedly including foreign nationals, seized a checkpoint manned by local police. Two days later, they entered the village and killed civilians in “a brutal, inhumane way,” according to a provincial spokesman Zabihullah Amani.

The militants set fire to several mosques, torched at least 30 houses, beheaded a number of villagers and shot dozens of others dead, other officials said.

Amani said the assailants launched the attack under the command of a local Taliban commander who had pledged allegiance to Daesh.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Yusouf Ahmadi, claimed responsibility for seizing the area, but denied killing civilians in Mirza Olang, cooperating with Daesh, or using foreign assailants.

Some hostages released

Meanwhile, the Taliban have reportedly released a number of the civilians who had been held hostage in the area following mediation by local elders and provincial officials, Amani said.

He said 235 hostages were released on Tuesday and were “safely evacuated to [other areas in] Sar-e Pol, but there are still an unknown number of people being kept hostage there.”