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Taliban execute teen girl, man for eloping

From Wednesday's Globe and Mail

In search of a life together, Abdul Aziz and Gul Pecha fled their remote Afghan village, hoping to leave behind their ultraconservative families and the sharia law of the Taliban-controlled region.

Their marriage hadn't been arranged, and their parents didn't approve. To try to elope in the remote Khash Rod district, where women face strict rules about appearing outdoors, was a risk for Mr. Aziz, 21, and Ms. Pecha, 19.

They didn't make it. One report said their own family turned them in. They were captured by villagers and taken back to their local mosque. Quickly convicted of immoral acts, or trying to elope, they were killed by firing squad Monday in public view, just outside the mosque. The Taliban condoned the slayings.

The case, recounted by local police, began after the woman refused to marry a man to which her family had promised her, electing instead to try to elope with Mr. Aziz.

One report said the couple were from two sects of Islam, Ms. Pecha a Sunni and Mr. Aziz a Shiite.

They were headed away from their lawless region for another village, or to neighbouring Iran, police said. There were conflicting reports as to whether family, upon the couple's return, handed them over to militants, or if they were taken by force.

The honour killings come on the heels of a controversial Afghan law that would make it impossible for husbands to be charged with raping their wives. The law has sparked a firestorm of debate over the role Canada should play in a country that so severely limits women's rights. The couple was killed on the same day that Trooper Karine Blais was killed, the second female Canadian soldier to die there.

Nimroz province Governor Ghulam Dastageer Azad, in an apparent effort to douse Western outrage over the killing of the couple, condemned the attack, telling Agence France-Presse the honour killings were an "insult to Islam."

But the Afghan government has no access to the remote region where the two were shot, said Jabar Pardeli, the provincial police chief of Nimroz.

It's instead ruled by Taliban leaders, who run quasi-judicial systems based on strict sharia law. The Taliban denied involvement - contradicting local police and government officials, who blamed the killings on the group - but condoned Monday's slaying.

"I have contacted our fighters in the area and I can say that none of them were involved," Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi told Britain's Guardian newspaper. "But it was a very bad thing for these people to escape from their homes without permission and it is right that they should be punished according to sharia law."

Taliban fighters have widened their influence in the past three years and now control many remote districts in Afghanistan, such as Khash Rod, where there are not enough coalition forces to establish a permanent presence.

With a report from Associated Press

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