Mullah Mohammad Omar, the head of the Taliban movement, stated in late January 2001 that there was no evidence of a civilian massacre in Yakaolang, but in the same interview retracted an earlier offer to allow journalists to visit the area.26
The identity of those Taliban soldiers who actually carried out the killings in each case has yet to be established. However, eyewitness testimony and Taliban radio broadcasts have helped to identify some of the Taliban commanders who were present in Yakaolang, while information about the Taliban command structure points to the commanders with responsibility for the conduct of Taliban forces in Baghlan at the time of the Robatak detentions and killings. One commander, Mullah Shahzad Kandahari, appears to have been involved in both operations.
As general commander of the Khinjan front in Baghlan province during the first half of 2000, Mullah Shahzad had authority over the detention facilities in Khinjan and Pul-i Khumri, where the Robatak prisoners were held, and was in command of the troops stationed in the area. The Taliban Chief Military Commander for the Northern Zone (Fifth Corps, based in Mazar-i Sharif), Mullah Abdul Razak Nawfiz, was the immediate superior officer of Mullah Shahzad, and was responsible for directing his operations and briefing him on Taliban strategy and policy. He was also the official who would have had primary responsibility for investigating crimes by the commander and preventing further abuses.
Witnesses have testified that Mullah Shahzad was also in command of some of the Taliban troops in Yakaolang. Others Taliban commanders in Yakaolang included Qari Ahmadullah of Ghazni, the minister of intelligence, who reportedly issued a statement from Yakaolang on the Taliban-operated Radio Shariat.27 Also present were Mullah Abdul Sattar, at the time the regional military commander for Hazarajat; Mullah Abdullah Sarhadi, the former regional military commander for Hazarajat; and Mullah Abdul Salam "Rocketi," a former commander with the Ittihad-i Islami party.28 Further investigation is necessary to determine what role, if any, they may have played in the massacres.
26 Mullah Omar said that journalists were biased against the Taliban and should instead visit Kandahar to see the graves of Taliban prisoners killed by United Front forces in Mazar-i Sharif during 1997. Kate Clark, "Taleban bar press from `massacre' site," BBC World Service, January 28, 2001, http://news.bbc.co.uk/hi/english/world/south_asia/newsid_1140000/1140942.stm (accessed February 16, 2001).
27 Interviews with witnesses, Yakaolang, February 2001.
28 Ittihad-i Islami is now part of the United Front.