Afghans are warning of dire consequences for the country’s tiny Christian population should American forces leave Afghanistan. “If U.S. troops are not in Afghanistan the Taliban will come to power,” said Obaid S. Christ, an Afghan Christian exiled to India.
WORLD – The U.S.-backed government headed by President Hamid Karzai has been no friend to Christian converts either. Earlier this year two civilian courts sentenced to death jailed Afghan Christians for changing their religion.
But a more recent, gruesome incident makes clear that the danger for anyone turning from Islam in Afghanistan is not over. A video released in recent weeks, and made available to WORLD this week by two separate Afghan sources, shows four Afghan militants beheading a man believed to be a Christian in Herat Province.
The militants, who claim to be Taliban, captured the victim, a man in his 40s named Abdul Latif, earlier this year from his village outside Enjeel, a town south of Herat.
In the two-minute video, the men, wearing explosive belts (or suicide vests) and kaffiya head scarves to cover their faces, recite verses from the Quran while forcing Latif to the ground and pinning him with their feet. “You who are
joined with pagans . . . your sentence [is] to be beheaded,” read one of the militants in Farsi from what looked like a paper decree. “Whoever changes his religion should be executed.” The passages refer to Sura 8:12 (“I will instill terror into the hearts of the Unbelievers: smite ye above their necks . . .”) and the hadiths, or sayings of Mohammed.
As Latif fought his captors from the ground, one of the militants thrust a medium-sized blade into the side of his neck. With blood flowing onto the ground the militants shouted “Allahu Akhbar” or “God is great” over and over until Latif was fully beheaded and his head was placed on top of his chest.
The brutal killing followed a now-too-familiar pattern used in other beheadings captured on video, notably the killings of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl in Pakistan in 2002 and U.S. defense contractor Nick Berg in Iraq in 2004. It also likely coincided with a Taliban-incited mob attack on the UN compound in Mazar-e-Sharif in April that followed the March burning of Qurans in the United States by pastor Terry Jones’ church in Florida. After that incident an estimated 4,000 Afghans poured into the streets of Mazar and marched on the compound, killing 10 UN officials—and reportedly beheading two of them.