U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton walks with Afghan President Hamid Karzai in Kabul, July 7, 2012. (AP/P …
A manhunt is under way in Afghanistan for a group of men who publicly executed a woman accused of adultery.
The video of the execution—which showed men cheering after the woman was killed—sparked immediate outrage. It's unclear when the execution in the village of Qimchok in the Parwan province near Kabul took place. Afghan authorities said the men were Taliban militants; a spokesman for the Taliban denied responsibility for the killing.
At least nine shots were fired by one of the men with an AK-47 at close range, the three-minute video showed.
"Murdering a woman who did not even have a voice for defending herself is a sign of cowardice, and such a crime is unforgivable in Islam and the country's laws," Afghan President Hamid Karzai said in a statement, vowing to bring the killers to justice
"We are still looking for people who were involved in this brutal act," Parwan Gov. Abdul Basir Salangi told CNN.
Salangi told Agence France-Presse that authorities are searching for those responsible "but the Taliban, including the killer, have fled to the mountains."
According to Salangi, the 22-year-old woman identified as "Najiba," was married to one Taliban commander and accused of adultery with another. "Within one hour they decided that she was guilty and sentenced her to death," he said.
"This was a brutal act against the Afghan people by the Taliban," Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Seddiqi said, according to Reuters. "They will be punished as they were punished 10 years ago, and we will continue our struggle to eliminate them."
The U.S. Embassy in Kabul called the killing a "cold-blooded murder" and "an unambiguous reminder to the Afghan people and the international community of the brutality of the Taliban."
"The protection of women's rights is critical around the world, but especially in Afghanistan, where such rights were ignored, attacked and eroded under Taliban rule," the embassy said. Public executions by the Taliban were common in Afghanistan before the U.S.-led invasion following the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
"Let's be clear, this wasn't justice, this was murder, and an atrocity of unspeakable cruelty," NATO commander Gen. John Allen said in a separate statement. "The Taliban's continued brutality toward innocent civilians, particularly women, must be condemned in the strongest terms. There has been too much progress made by too many brave Afghans, especially on the part of women, for this kind of criminal behavior to be tolerated. NATO's International Security Assistance Force stands with the people of Afghanistan."
Allen offered to help local security forces in their search.
"Afghan women and girls were looking to the international community to protect the progress they have made in the last decade, and they have been let down," Louise Hancock, head of Oxfam Afghanistan, said.
"Such deplorable actions underline the vital need for better protection of the rights of women and girls in Afghanistan," British Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a statement.
Locals deplored the killing, too.
"We will take revenge for this," Sayed Jalal, a local shopkeeper, told Reuters. "Their brutality and such inhumane acts are why we hate the Taliban."
Before the video surfaced, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton addressed a conference in Tokyo on Sunday, calling for equal rights for women in Afghanistan. "The United States believes strongly that no nation can achieve peace, stability and economic growth if half the population is not empowered," Clinton said.
Meanwhile, six U.S. service members were killed by an improvised explosive device in eastern Afghanistan on Sunday, a U.S. official said. And according to CNN, at least 26 civilians were killed in Afghanistan on Sunday by roadside bombs.