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Afghan commander accused of rights abuses released after days of protest

An anti-Taliban Shia Hazara militant commander has been released by Afghanistan’s government after two days of violent protests, following his arrest earlier this month. 

Alipur, known as “Commander Sword”,  has been accused of conducting human rights abuses against the ethnic Pashtuns in the Maidan Wardak region, west of Kabul. Afghan police accuse him of several crimes and arrested him following an earlier failed attempted that ended in a shootout killing 12 people.

Violent protests erupted soon after his arrest, with one demonstrator telling Al Jazeera  "Alipur stands against the Taliban and yet the government arrests him?”. 

The protests resulted  in the burning of at least eight security checkpoints and recruiting centres; 19 vehicles being damaged; and several policemen being wounded.

Al Jazeera reports that witnesses saw police open fire indiscriminately to disperse the crowd, resulting in dozens killed. One witness alleges to have seen a 10-year-old school girl killed during the carnage whilst evidence of the police shooting at demonstrators reportedly began to circulate on the internet. General Akhtar Mohammad Ibrahimi, Afghanistan’s Interior Minister, denied security forces shot at demonstrators asserting that no live ammunition was used. He further stated that they had not received information on casualties but can confirm that 48 security force members were wounded.

Responses to Alipur’s release are mixed. He enjoys a high-level of political backing due to his image as a military strongman fighting against the Taliban at a time when the government are seen to be failing and confronting security threats posed by groups like the Taliban and ISIL. However, Reuters notes that some security officials are alarmed by his release especially given his record of human rights abuses. An unnamed security official told journalists:

"It is very sad to see people like Alipur bailed out and the government succumbing to pressure […] It is going to turn into a pattern where even if the security forces arrest a wanted criminal, the government just frees them […] Security forces will lose faith in the government."

 See more from Al Jazeera here.