‘I felt, tasted and smelt death when the Taliban said they’d chop my head off’

A journalist who was captured by the Taliban has recalled his near death experience, when he was just hours from having his head chopped off by the violent terrorist group.

Shoaib Sharifi is a BBC journalist who has worked in dangerous war zones including Kabul in Afghanistan.

But, despite his experience in the region, Shoaib’s luck once appeared to have run out when he ran into a Taliban group in the desert, and almost lost his life during a frightening ordeal.

Sharing his story on the Line of Fire podcast, Shoaib eerily recalled how he had been warned by his wife that she had a bad dream about his safety in a phone call only 30 minutes before.

Shoaib was taken captive by the terrorist group after explaining that he and his team were in the area to document the Taliban’s quest for power.

And, after being walked for eight hours through a mountainous region, the journalist was shocked when he was told by his captors that he was to be executed for being a spy.

“They were constantly swearing at us saying, ‘you are spies of the Americans and you have brought GPS… trackers that these drones would find and bomb,” he recalled.

Shortly after, the group were lined up against a wall, and told to turn around.

“That is the moment they queued us up for execution, that I felt, tasted and smelt death with all my senses. It’s the moment you’re ready that bullets would come and pierce into you. I had gone beyond that, I thought, ‘I’m dead’," he recalled.

But, in a twist of fate, Shoaib was told that they were not to be executed at that spot, and the group were taken higher up into the mountains by their captors.

A strange time followed where the captors deliberated over whether to kill the group, with Shoaib even managing to befriend them after instructing them in first aid.

However, after this period of relative safety, Shoaib’s fear of death soon returned when he was told that the Taliban authorities had decided to finally commence with his execution.

“He [one of the captors] said that today, just after four o’clok, the commissioner decided that you will be executed. You will be first, your head will be chopped just after four o’clock today,” he said.

“I really felt death, you really feel it, it’s not numbness but meaningless, everything loses meaning.”

And, in a twisted gesture of mercy, Shoaib remembered how his captor had offered to shoot him rather than let him be executed because of the bluntness of the knife the executor would use.

“He said, ‘the moment you’re taken to that beheading table or execution table, I’ll shot one bullet in your forehead and you’ll be gone in seconds, and I’ll spare you that unbearable, difficult, torturous beheading’,” he added.

Shoaib decided to accept this offer, but as the scheduled time of his death passed and the day grew dark, the journalist remembered that a man had finally entered to inform him that he would not be executed after all.

Despite his brush with death that day, and the trauma he has had to deal with since, Shoaib took the brave decision to remain in Afghanistan when the Taliban shocking returned to power in August 2021 and is country director for BBC Media Action in the country.

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