Taliban flog woman, cut off two men's hands

By Sayed Salahuddin

KABUL, Feb 27,1998 (Reuters) - Afghanistan's Taliban Islamic authorities gave a woman 100 lashes for adultery and amputated the right hands of two men for theft in Kabul on Friday as thousands of looked on.

A Taleban speaker read out the verdicts of a religious court, saying that Sohaila, a single woman from Kabul, had admitted adultery.

He said the two men -- Hamidullah of Paktiya province and Habibullah from Kapisa province -- had confessed their sins without any pressure.

The sentences were carried out in Kabul's sports stadium, where more than 20,000 residents of the war-shattered capital gathered to watch.

Sohaila was brought to the stadium in a car accompanied by two other women wearing the all-enveloping Burqa veil. A Taleban fighter lashed Sohaila 100 times with a roughly one-metre (three foot three inch) whip as a speaker chanted Islamic slogans.

``Thanks to the Taleban, the army of God, that we can protect the honour of people,'' the speaker said.

``Thanks to God that we are followers of God not of the West,'' he said.

According to Islamic law enforced by the Taleban, an unmarried adulterer should be flogged 100 times, but a married adulterer should be stoned to death.

``Certainly as a result of these punishments, the extent of crime will reduce in Kabul,'' said the Taleban governor in Kabul, Abdul Manan Niyazi.

Sohaila walked away in no apparent pain or injury after the lashing that was administered relatively lightly.

Taleban officials said that the man who had illegal sex with Sohaila had escaped arrest.

``This was only to expose her and humiliate her in public and it gave no pain,'' Niyazi said of the flogging.

The two men, convicted of stealing goods worth 19 million afghanis ($500) from a Kabul shop, were brought in a Japanese pick-up truck and were anaesthetised before their right hands were cut off from the wrist with a sharp lance.

Three doctors from the Public Health Ministry, who had covered their faces, carried out the amputation after the convicts became unconscious and lay on the damp ground.

A Taleban fighter carried one amputated hand around and said: ``Anyone committing theft or adultery will face such punishment. Look at this, it is the hand of one of the thieves.''

Friday's was the second public amputation of thieves' hands in Kabul in a week. Last Friday, the Taleban chose a school as the venue for the punishment.

On Wednesday, the Taleban ordered the execution of three men for sodomy in the southern town of Kandahar, southern Afghanistan. They were ordered to be buried alive under a pile of stones and a wall was pushed on top of them by a tank.

Their lives were to be spared if they survived for 30 minutes and were still alive when the stones were removed.

More punishments would be carried out in public, Niyazi said.

The Taleban, who seized control of Kabul in 1996, have enforced strict Islamic code in the more than two-thirds of Afghanistan it controls and have cracked down on crime.

The Taleban administration, whose attitude towards human rights has come under sharp criticism in the West, is recognised only by three countries -- Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

[Photos of handcut]

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