Death sentences for 2 Afghanis in bank massacre

AP News
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Posted: Jun 13, 2011 11:28 AM
Death sentences for 2 Afghanis in bank massacre

Two Afghan men who stormed a Jalalabad bank in February and killed at least 38 people at point blank range are to be hanged, court officials said Monday.

Chief court administrator Abdul Malik Kamawi said the convicts, Matiullah and Zar Ajam, were sentenced to death by Afghanistan's highest court for the massacre at a Kabul Bank branch in Jalalabad, the capital of the eastern province of Nangahar.

A bank video recording of the attack showed the men calmly herding cowering bank customers toward them and then shooting them to death with AK-47 assault rifles.

Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai would have to sign the death warrant to allow the sentence to be carried out, Kamawi said.

He said a third man convicted in the bank massacre was sentenced to 10 years in prison.

A video of Zar Ajam after he was captured, broadcast in Afghan news channels, showed him boasting of killing his victims. Court officials said he was from Waziristan, Pakistan, a hotbed of insurgent activity.

"They were all foreigners, and I enjoyed killing them," a bloodied but coherent Ajam said at the time.

The victims included Afghan civilians and unarmed Afghan police, as well as soldiers who were collecting their paychecks. The Taliban, who took responsibility for the February attack, often targets Afghan police and army personnel to undermine the transition of security operations from NATO to Afghan control.

The cases of the accused moved through Afghanistan's primary and appellate court systems before arriving at the supreme court, which issued the death sentences.

Nangahar governor's spokesman Ahmad Zia Abdulzai said that the death sentence was a sign of the government's growing capacity to serve its constituents.

"Those cruel men destroyed hundreds of families' lives," he said. "They should be hanged publicly until they are dead."

Sherbahador Hemat, a 39-year-old journalist whose cousin was killed in the bank massacre, said the verdicts were just, but not enough to heal the wrong done to Jalalabad's people.

"If they are to be hanged, they should be hanged in Jalalabad," Hemat said.

Kamawi said it was not clear where the executions would take place.

Public executions in soccer stadiums were a common occurrence during the Taliban's rule. The executions took the form of hangings, along with firing squads, beheadings and stonings. The Taliban continues to mete out public justice in its strongholds, including death.

The Afghan government has staged a number of judicial hangings since the fall of the Taliban, but none of them have been public.

In another development in the country, two NATO service members were killed on Sunday in insurgent attacks in southern Afghanistan, the alliance announced.

The international coalition released no other details about the attacks and did not provide the nationalities of the dead service members.

The deaths bring to 26 the total number of NATO troops killed in Afghanistan this month, and 232 this year.