KABUL, Afghanistan, Jan. 26, 2011— -- About 200 people listen to a Taliban mullah describe why a man and woman deserve to be killed. A few dozen spectators – people from the local community -- start throwing rocks at the woman, who had already been placed in a 4-foot-deep hole. They throw with relish and yell, "Allah akbar."
At one point a large rock strikes her head and she falls down, her burqa red with blood. After the rock throwing ends, a few people debate whether she should be shot. Eventually one of the spectators shoots her with an AK-47. She falls into the hole, out of sight. There is a short period of absolute silence, and then the spectators turn to each other and start talking.
Then the man is brought into the crowd and blindfolded with his own tunic. The same scene proceeds, but with larger rocks and more abandon. He cries as he is killed.
That's a dispassionate description of video of the first documented stoning in Afghanistan since the Taliban were in power, which took place in October. The video is shocking and nauseating, and most people who watch an unedited version of the footage need to look away.
The cell phone video, first obtained by the BBC and then independently obtained by ABC News, was filmed by one of the spectators at the stoning, which occurred in a conservative district near the Afghan-Tajik border. It was also posted online, viewed by about 6,000 people.
The brutality of the event is one of the most outrageous examples of the Taliban imposing their own version of justice in Afghanistan nearly nine years after the war began. It shows how their reach in historically peaceful northern Afghanistan recently expanded to the point where they could hold a public execution at 10:30 a.m. without any fear of retribution.
But the video and the story behind it also shows how even some conservative elements of Afghan society reject Taliban punishments -- and yet aren't strong enough to resist a well-funded, well-armed insurgency.