02.24.11

Attack Video Shows Taliban Horrors

A Taliban shooting at an Afghan bank that killed scores of civilians comes as the U.S. is negotiating with the group. Lloyd Grove talks to Afghan’s top media mogul about the brutality. Plus, watch the video.

Last Saturday, a gang of gunman marched into the Kabul Bank in Jalalabad, in eastern Afghanistan, and massacred up to 60 unarmed civilians in cold blood. Dozens more victims suffered grievous wounds. The brutal Feb. 19 attack was staged as workers were gathered in the bank to withdraw their pay.

The Taliban quickly and proudly claimed responsibility—although Pakistan’s dread-inducing Inter-Service Intelligence agency (a largely pro-Taliban, fanatic Islamic cabal known as the ISI) has also been implicated.

Extremely Graphic Video of the Kabul Bank Shooting

Video screenshot

One of the gunmen, arrested by law enforcement authorities, was quoted as saying: “I shot numerous people. I was told people in gray are pagans and I was shooting them with joy.”

Tolo (for “dawn”) TV, the 24-hour television channel of Afghan media mogul Saad Mohseni, chairman of the Moby Media Group, obtained closed circuit security camera footage of the mayhem and this week put it on the air. Be warned: the video is horrific and sickening, showing a man with an automatic weapon indiscriminately shooting defenseless victims at close range.

“Although we realized that airing such footage would shock many, we felt compelled to go with it given the importance of bringing home the brutality of the Taliban,” Mohseni told The Daily Beast in an email. “The impact of the footage has been dramatic, with almost everyone condemning the massacre and the people behind this carnage—well, everyone except the Afghan government. The extraordinary thing has been the government's reluctance to name names such as the Taliban, the ISI and Pakistani government.”

Mohseni, a strong advocate of Western-style democracy in his hard-scrabble country of 28 million souls, continued: “Although they have demanded the death penalty for the perpetrator (captured on video), they are reluctant to address the more important questions: who do they represent, where are they trained, who funds them etc. The Afghan government is more intent on doing a deal with the Taliban and its Pakistani backers than addressing the fundamental question of what will transpire inside the country once the Taliban are in as a legitimate party. Self-preservation has once again taken priority over the longer term welfare of our beleaguered nation.”

Mohseni added that the attitude of official Washington has also been disappointing. “Some within the United States government (White House and State Department) have also shown a great deal of restraint when it comes to directly attacking the Taliban and ISI. This year, according to many in Washington, is the year of reconciliation with the Taliban. For most in the United States, it would be easier to just ‘market’ the Taliban as an Afghan phenomenon—totally false—and to declare that these barbarians represent the indigenous culture—which they do not.”

Surely, these terrible images will do nothing to advance the cause of reconciliation.

Lloyd Grove is editor at large for The Daily Beast. He is also a frequent contributor to New York magazine and was a contributing editor for Condé Nast Portfolio. He wrote a gossip column for the New York Daily News from 2003 to 2006. Prior to that, he wrote the Reliable Source column for the Washington Post, where he spent 23 years covering politics, the media, and other subjects.