Taliban Will Cut Off Hands of People Who Steal As Sharia Reinstated Across Afghanistan

The Taliban has reportedly said that people found guilty of stealing in Afghanistan will have their hands cut off, as dictated by Sharia.

Members of the militant group, which seized power in the country last month, made the comments about Islamic law on Friday at a mosque in Kabul, according to Indian news outlets.

Newsweek has contacted the Taliban for comment.

Taliban has just announced from a Kabul mosque that those people who will be found stealing or caught in a case of theft, their hands would be cut as per the Sharia Law of Islam. This is Taliban 2.0.

— Aditya Raj Kaul (@AdityaRajKaul) September 3, 2021

The Taliban leadership held a press conference on August 17 during which they said the new Afghanistan would be freer than the country the group ruled between 1996 and 2001. But when a reporter asked Suhail Shaheen, a Taliban spokesperson, if the harsh punishment would be government policy, he did not rule out cutting off thieves' hands.

"I can say the Islamic rule is interpreted by the judges. Everyone has the right of defense. Then [the judge] can issue the ruling as per the Islamic law. So I have no comment on that," Shaheen said.

In Afghan districts controlled by the Taliban, judges have continued to impose the punishment. In July, Gul Rahim, a Taliban judge, told German newspaper Bild about his latest case, in which a man had broken into a house and stolen a golden ring. As well as ordering the man's hands to be cut off, the judge asked the homeowner whether he wanted the man's leg to be chopped off as well, since he had committed two crimes—breaking into the house and stealing the ring.

Under the strict interpretation of Islamic law that the Taliban followed when governing in the 1990s, thieves and suspected thieves had their hands and feet cut off. This often occurred in public and sometimes the severed body part would be paraded before a crowd.

Although the militant group lost power after a U.S.-led invasion of Afghanistan in 2001, the Taliban revived the punishment in areas they controlled in the 2010s.

The Taliban took power from the government of President Ashraf Ghani on August 17 this year, two days after its fighters had reached the fringes of Kabul and hours after Ghani had fled the country.

The Taliban is expected to form a government as early as Friday as it comes under increasing domestic and international pressure to rule the country with greater tolerance, especially when it comes to women's rights. The AFP news agency reported that the announcement would likely come after Friday prayers, but could be moved back to Saturday.

The Taliban moved quickly to fill the vacuum last month as U.S. and other Western forces withdrew their troops, after two decades in the country. On August 30, just before the clock struck midnight, the last U.S. soldiers left Afghanistan. However, the withdrawal did not go smoothly as thousands of people scrambled to the airport to be evacuated by the U.S. and other Western forces. Although thousands left Kabul safely, hundreds of Americans and Afghans who had worked with U.S. forces during the war were left behind.

Adding to the misery, a suicide bomber detonated an explosive near the gates of Kabul's airport on August 26, killing 13 American service members and at least 170 Afghans. The attack was claimed by ISIS-K, an Afghanistan-based affiliate of the Islamic State militant group. The United States responded with a series of drone attacks on ISIS-K targets, but some civilians were killed.

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Taliban fighters on a pick-up truck drive around a market in the Kote Sangi area of Kabul on August 17, after the militant group seized control of the capital following the collapse of the Afghan government. Photo by HOSHANG HASHIMI/AFP via Getty Images