Taliban militants have threatened and beaten United Nations staff members in Afghanistan, even as the insurgent group has attempted to portray itself as more moderate than in years past, according to an internal organization document obtained by Reuters.
Reuters reported Wednesday that the U.N. document describes dozens of instances of threats and violence faced by U.N. staff members dating back to Aug. 10, just days before the Taliban captured Kabul and toppled Afghanistan’s government.
One of the reported incidents involved an Afghan U.N. staff member who on Sunday was attempting to reach Kabul’s airport, where the U.S. military and coalition forces have been working to evacuate tens of thousands of Americans and Afghan allies still present in the country.
According to Reuters, Taliban members stopped the U.N. staffer and searched his vehicle, before ultimately beating him.
In another incident, a group of three unknown men visited the home of another U.N. staff member while he was at work on Monday.
They accused the man’s son of lying about where he was, saying, “We know his location and what he does,” according to the news service.
The internal document adds to the ongoing reports of threats and intimidation facing U.N. and other foreign workers in Afghanistan following the Taliban’s consolidation of power, with Reuters reporting Tuesday that the Taliban had overtaken and ransacked multiple U.N. compounds in the country.
In response to Wednesday’s report, U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said in a press briefing that it was “critical” that “the authorities in charge in Kabul and throughout Afghanistan realize that they have the responsibility to protect U.N. and for the safety of U.N. staff.”
Dujarric declined to provide additional comment to The Hill beyond what he said in the news conference.
The international organization previously said it would look into reported instances of abuse as it attempts to maintain a stable presence within Afghanistan to continue delivering aid.
As of Wednesday, the U.N. had relocated roughly a third of its 300 foreign staff members who were in Afghanistan to Kazakhstan, with about 3,000 Afghan U.N. staff still in the country, according to Reuters.
On Tuesday, U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres told U.N. personnel in Afghanistan that he was “distressed by the reports that some of you have experienced harassment and intimidation.”
“The safety of all United Nations personnel in Afghanistan is our top priority,” he added. “We are doing everything in our power, namely through the permanent engagement with all relevant actors, and will continue to do so to ensure your safety and well-being, and to find external solutions where they are needed.”