U.S. and Afghan officials have expressed outrage after video surfaced of Taliban fighters executing a woman accused of adultery.
The video, apparently shot on a cellphone in a village less than an hour's drive from Kabul, the country's capital, underscores the delicate state of the U.S. mission in Afghanistan, and the ability of the Taliban to dictate the law so close to the country's capital.
"This cold-blooded murder, carried out in front of a crowd and recorded on video, is an unambiguous reminder to the Afghan people and the international community of the brutality of the Taliban," the U.S. Embassy in Kabul said in a statement.
The video begins with a militant invoking words in Arabic. In the background, a young woman covered in a burqa robe from head to toe can be seen squatting on a patch of mud.
She does not say a word.
As the camera pans around, a hundred or so militants can be seen. Many of them are armed, some smiling, as what appears to be a Taliban judge reads out the verdict.
"Allah warns us not to get close to adultery because it's the wrong way," one man is heard saying on the tape.
"It's the command of Allah that she be executed," another says.
An automatic rifle is then handed to one of the militants. He approaches the woman and fires nine shots, each one of them from close range, as the crowd erupts in a series of cheers. Many of them chant, "God is great" and "Long live the Mujahideen," as the woman topples over.
She does not move.
Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered security forces today to apprehend the militants seen on the video.
In statement issued by his press office, he referred to the militants in the video as "cowards, adding that "such crimes are unforgivable both in Islam and under our country's laws."
Afghan officials believe the woman was targeted because two Taliban commanders had a dispute over her, according to the local governor, Abdul Basir Salangi. Both were apparently caught in some sort of inappropriate relationship with her, and to save face, they accused her of adultery. They apparently set up a militant court where they tried, convicted and executed her within an hour.
The episode is reminiscent of the days when the Taliban ruled the country and public executions, particularly for so-called "moral crimes" like adultery, were commonplace.