Eleven elderly Afghan men say their index fingers were chopped off by Taliban insurgents over the weekend as punishment for their having voted in Saturday’s presidential runoff elections.
“They asked us why we voted then they took us to their base. They held us and threatened to cut off our fingers. There was no point resisting so they went right ahead and chopped my finger off with an axe. Then they let us go,” one of the men recovering in the hospital told the BBC.
“We participated in the election and cast our votes to choose our president,” said another of the elderly man from his hospital room. “We were kidnapped and our fingers were chopped off.”
Voters in Afghanistan dip their index fingers in semi-permanent ink, a policy meant to prevent election fraud, but which in this case marked the men as potential victims for the hardline Islamist group that called for a boycott of Saturday’s vote.
Noor Mohammed Noor of the Independent Election Commission confirmed to the BBC that insurgents had cut off the men’s fingers because they had voted, saying “This is really bad news … and we condemned it.”
“Like millions of their countrymen and women, these ordinary Afghans were exercising their fundamental right to determine the future path of their country through voting and not through violence and intimidation. By their vote, they already defeated those who promote terror and violence,” Jan Kubis, the U.N. special representative, told the Associated Press.
Police spokesman Raoud Ahamdi said that the incident occurred in western Herat province.
The men said they felt relieved to have escaped alive. Others were not so lucky, as Interior Minister Mohammad Umar Daudzai said that nearly 50 people were killed nationwide in election-related attacks.
Despite the Taliban threats against voting, Afghans lined up Saturday to cast their votes in the presidential runoff between two candidates, both of whom have promised to improve ties with the West and sign a long-delayed security agreement with the U.S. that would allow some 10,000 U.S. troops to remain in Afghanistan for two more years for the purposes of counterterrorism and training Afghan security forces.
Here is a video report from the BBC on the finger amputations: