Afghanistan’s ruling Taliban carried out a double public execution Thursday at a stadium in the country’s southeast, where relatives of the victims of stabbing deaths fired guns at two convicted men while thousands of people watched.

The Taliban’s Supreme Court ruled that the two men were responsible for the stabbing deaths of two victims in separate attacks, according to a court statement. It identified the two as Syed Jamal from central Wardak province and Gul Khan from Ghazni — though it was unclear who carried out the stabbings, the two convicted men or others.

The statement also said that three lower courts and the Taliban’s supreme leader, Hibatullah Akhundzada, had ordered the executions in retribution for their purported crimes.

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On Thursday, people crowded outside the stadium in the Ali Lala area of the city of Ghazni, clambering to get in. Religious scholars pleaded with relatives of the victims to forgive the convicts, but they refused.

Abu Abu Khalid Sarhadi, a spokesman for Ghazni police, said that relatives of the victims executed the two men. He did not say what type of guns they used.

Taliban fighters in truck with guns

Taliban fighters hold their weapons as they celebrate one year since they seized the Afghan capital, Kabul, in front of the U.S. Embassy in Kabul, Afghanistan, on Monday, Aug. 15. (AP/Ebrahim Noroozi)

The executions started shortly before 1 p.m. There were 15 bullets fired, eight at one of the men and seven at the other.

Supreme Court spokesman Abdul Rahim Rashid said the men were shot from behind. Ambulances then took their bodies away.

The killings were the third and fourth public executions since the Taliban seized power in 2021 amid the chaotic withdrawal of U.S. and NATO forces from Afghanistan.

The United Nations has strongly criticized the Taliban for carrying out public executions, lashings and stonings since seizing power, and called on the country’s rulers to halt such practices.

On Thursday, the U.N. said it was strongly opposed to the death penalty, saying it was inconsistent with the fundamental right to life. Its mission in Afghanistan urged Taliban authorities to establish an immediate moratorium on the death penalty as a step toward its abolition.

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During their previous rule of Afghanistan in the late 1990s, the Taliban regularly carried out public executions, floggings and stonings.

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