GHAZNI, Afghanistan -- Hamidullah, a young resident of the southeastern Afghan city of Ghazni, recently had a harrowing experience. While returning from a trip to the southern city of Kandahar this month, the Taliban stopped the bus he had taken for the 350-kilometer return journey.

“A Taliban fighter asked me to hand over my mobile phone,” he told Radio Free Afghanistan. “They found some photos of Afghan Army soldiers, and then they beat me,” he said.

Hamidullah, who goes by one name, says the photos were of friends and relatives, some of whom serve in the Afghan forces. “After they beat me, they broke my phone,” he said.

Hamidullah is not alone in experiencing such treatment. In Ghazni Province, of which Ghazni city is the capital, many have endured harassment and beatings at the hands of the Taliban. The hard-line Islamist group has set up makeshift check posts along Afghanistan’s main highway connecting the capital, Kabul, in the east to Kandahar, the second city in the south. The province contains the middle stretch of Highway 1, which is more than 500 kilometers long.

While the Taliban has admitted prying into mobile phone data, the hard-line group maintains it limits the practice to people considered “suspicious.”

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