Head of Afghan Commando Unit Detained Over 1,000 Killings

A suspected war criminal has been arrested in the Netherlands in connection with the 1979 massacre of more than 1,000 men and boys during the Afghan civil war.

Sadeq Alamyar, 64, was detained in Rotterdam on Tuesday.

The Dutch citizen is accused of being the commander of an elite Afghan army unit during the communist government’s civil war against Islamist rebels which authorities say "dragged large numbers of men and boys from their homes" before killing them.

At least 1,000 men and boys are alleged to have been rounded up by government troops and shot dead in the Kerala area of Kunar province in eastern Afghanistan on April 20, 1979.

According to Dutch prosecutors, the "commando unit under [Alamyar's] orders took part in several killings" while he also "allegedly fired shots himself."

Human Rights Watch described the massacre as “one of the most horrific crimes of the early years of Afghanistan’s long wars.”

Following the collapse of the Afghan government and a decade of imprisonment, Alamyar was granted asylum in the Netherlands in the 1990s and later became a Dutch citizen.

A criminal complaint lodged by relatives of the victims triggered the investigation.

In April, Dutch police searched four homes and a vehicle around the Netherlands and interviewed some of Alamyar’s family members.

In a statement, the Dutch Public Prosecutor's Office said that the country was "committed to not being a safe haven for war criminals."

Patricia Gossman of Human Rights Watch highlighted that it was "rare when victims of 36-year-old crimes get their day in court."

She added: In Afghanistan’s wars, there have been thousands of killings, systematic torture, rapes, and a litany of other war crimes and grievous human rights abuses. Many Afghans have called for accountability, but few perpetrators have ever faced justice.”