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Taliban hunting for ‘collaborators’ in major cities, threat assessment prepared for United Nations warns

Taliban fighters display their flag as they patrol Kabul on Aug. 19. (Rahmat Gul/AP)
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The Taliban has stepped up its hunt for former Afghan security officials and people who may have worked with U.S. or NATO forces, according to a confidential threat assessment prepared for the United Nations and seen by The Washington Post.

The militants are going house to house, setting up checkpoints and threatening to arrest or kill relatives of “collaborators” in major cities, the Wednesday assessment said.

The document, produced by the Norwegian Center for Global Analyses, a U.N.-linked intelligence support center, describes an empowered Taliban eager to seek out and interrogate or punish those affiliated with the U.S.-backed government.

At particular risk are people who were in central positions in military, police and investigative units, according to the analysis, despite a Taliban pledge this week to grant amnesty to former officials.

Separately, a German broadcaster said Taliban fighters killed a relative of one of its journalists — an ominous signal that the Taliban was not following through on pledges to avoid retribution and to respect the media.

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The fighters are using the West’s focus on evacuating foreign nationals to “search unrestrained for Afghan targets inside the cities,” the Norwegian Center for Global Analyses document said.

At the same time, the group is screening for individuals outside the Kabul airport, where thousands of Afghans have gathered in recent days in hopes of fleeing the country.

The Taliban has “established vehicle check points on all major roads and around major cities,” including Kabul and Jalalabad, the assessment said.

It also warned of a “worst case” scenario in which the militants close down Kabul and other cities to conduct mass arrests and public executions.

The relative of the journalist was killed by Taliban fighters going house to house in Afghanistan to hunt for the reporter, according to Deutsche Welle. The journalist now works in Germany. Other family members were able to flee from the fighters.

“The killing of a close relative of one of our editors by the Taliban yesterday is inconceivably tragic, and testifies to the acute danger in which all our employees and their families in Afghanistan find themselves,” DW’s director general, Peter Limbourg, said. “It is evident that the Taliban are already carrying out organized searches for journalists, both in Kabul and in the provinces. We are running out of time!”

The Taliban seriously injured another of the journalist’s relatives. The militants have also raided the homes of at least three of the organization’s journalists, DW reported. Two men also shot and killed a translator who frequently contributed to the German newspaper Die Zeit, according to DW.

DW and other major German media organizations published an open letter Sunday calling on the German government to establish an emergency visa program for their Afghan employees.

“They too have shared our belief in the free press as an indispensable element of a stable, peaceful, balanced democracy — a value that the German government strongly supported in Afghanistan over the past 20 years,” the letter read.

DW has sent names and contact information of staff members to the German Foreign Ministry so that they can be put on evacuation flights. But reaching the airport — and getting on planes once people are there — has proved difficult in recent days, as Taliban fighters have set up checkpoints on access routes and attacked or harassed Afghans on the way to the airport.

On Friday, the German government reported that one of its citizens was shot on the way to the airport but is safe and awaiting evacuation.

The human rights group Amnesty International issued a report Thursday about the torture and murder of nine Afghan men from the Hazara ethnic minority in July after the group took over their village.

The report, bolstered by photographic evidence and witness accounts, raises further doubts about the Taliban’s recent promises not to repeat some of the atrocities that characterized its 1996-2001 rule.

Andrew Jeong contributed to this report.

correction

An earlier version of this article misspelled the name of Peter Limbourg, director general of Deutsche Welle. The article has been corrected.

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