Once inmates, Taliban now in charge in a Kabul prison
Once, Kabul's main prison was crowded with thousands of Taliban captured and arrested by the government. On Monday, a Taliban commander strolled through its empty halls and cell blocks, showing his friends where he had once been imprisoned. It was a sign of the sudden and startling new order in Afghanistan after the militant group swept into the capital nearly a month ago.
Now, dozens of Taliban fighters are running the facility
The Taliban now run Pul-e-Charkhi Prison, a sprawling complex on Kabul's eastern outskirts. After capturing the city, the fighters freed all the inmates there, the government guards fled, and now dozens of Taliban fighters are running the facility. The commander, who refused to give his name, was on a personal visit to the complex with a group of his friends.
Prisoners suffered abuses and torture at the prison: Commander
He told The Associated Press he had been arrested around a decade ago in eastern Kunar province and was brought to Pul-e-Charkhi, bound and blindfolded. I feel so terrible when I remember those days, he said. He said prisoners suffered abuses and torture. He was imprisoned for around 14 months before he was released.
Swift Taliban seizure of the country has worried the world
Those were the darkest days, and now this is the happiest moment for me that I'm free and come to this place without fear, he added. Many Afghans as well as governments around the world have been alarmed by the swift Taliban seizure of power, fearing the movement will impose a similar, harsh rule as they did during their first-time ruling in the 1990s.
Some Taliban guards entered cell blocks for the first time
However, for the Taliban fighters, it's a moment to savor a victory after years of grueling fighting and to see a city few of them have entered since the war began. For some of the Taliban guards accompanying the AP, it was the first time they had entered the abandoned cell blocks.
Cells are littered with things the last inmates left
They looked with curiosity through the cells, still littered with things the last inmates left behind- fabrics hanging from the walls and windows, small rugs, water bottles. One fighter exchanged his sandals for a better pair he found in a cell. Then he found an even better pair and exchanged again. Others played with the former prisoners' makeshift weight bars.
Pul-e-Charkhi has a long, disturbing history of violence and torture
Pul-e-Charkhi has a long, disturbing history of violence, mass executions, and torture. Mass graves and torture cells were uncovered dating from the Soviet-backed governments of the late 1970s and 1980s. Under the US-backed government, it was more known for overcrowding its 11 cell blocks that were built to house 5,000 inmates but were often packed with over 10,000, including Taliban prisoners and criminals.