HERAT, Afghanistan -- Faiz Ahmad says his life has become meaningless since the Taliban robbed him of his ability to work last week by chopping off his right hand and his left foot.
The 25-year-old driver from western Afghanistan is now recovering at Herat Regional Hospital after a hellish, monthlong ordeal as a captive of the Taliban.
"I have become useless," he says. "I can't do anything with my life anymore. I can't be involved in any professions as I could before when I was able to do anything. I used to be able to farm and I was very good at driving."
Taliban spokesman Qari Yousaf Ahmadi has confirmed that Taliban militants abducted Faiz and his friend, 22-year-old driver Zarin, a month ago from their village in the province's Rabat Sangi district.
He also has confirmed that Taliban militants cut off the right hand and left foot of each man after holding them captive for four weeks.
The Taliban spokesman claims that the two were punished as "thieves" under the Taliban's strict interpretation of Islamic law. He says the verdict was delivered against them by a Shari'a court after they confessed that they had stolen money, motorcycles, and other valuables from Muslims over a lengthy period of time.
But Faiz and his relatives tell a different story.
Both Faiz and Zarin worked as drivers for a private security company that escorts NATO supply convoys in western Afghanistan. Their relatives see the amputations as punishment and a warning for anyone cooperating with NATO forces.
Now both men are recovering at Herat Regional Hospital where Faiz, who has been married for three years, lives with his wife and 18-month-old son.
"The Taliban wanted us to cooperate with them and take explosives inside the company that we worked for and detonate them," he told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan. "They asked us more than 20 times, saying that if we did it we would be freed."
Faiz claims that when he and Zarin continued to refuse to carry out the bomb attack, his captors told them that they should never work for their security firm again.
Esmatullah, a cousin of Zarin, says the Taliban also demanded that the drivers' relatives pay a ransom to secure their release. But Esmatullah said both families are impoverished and could not afford to pay the money.
Faiz said his ordeal began one afternoon in mid-March as he was resting at his home. He said Taliban fighters in six cars arrived, surrounding his house and storming inside to kidnap him.
By Faiz's reckoning, he was a prisoner of the Taliban for 27 days before they were beaten with chains and the amputations were carried out. He maintains that he never testified before any council, mullah, or trial judge -- and that the militants didn't try to justify the punishment under Islamic principles.
"On the 28th day, they cut off our hands and feet in some desert area and threw them there before my very eyes," he says. "They didn't even give us anesthesia before they cut off our hands. I was blindfolded but I could see through a hole."
The Taliban then dumped both men on the side of the highway that links the city of Herat with Turkmenistan farther to the north.
Loose Interpretation Of Islamic Law
Herat Regional Hospital spokesman Mohammad Rafiq Shirzai said Faiz and Zarin were unconscious when a local villager found them and drove them to the medical facility for treatment.
Amputations were a common form of punishment in Afghanistan when the Taliban was in power. But since the collapse of their regime in late 2001, there have been few known cases of Taliban amputations.
In most instances where the Taliban has carried out its interpretation of Islamic Shari'a law since late 2001, individuals have been killed -- by being shot, beheaded, or stoned to death.
Mussa Mahmoudi, executive director of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, told RFE/RL's Radio Free Afghanistan that even if the Taliban did conduct a trial against Faiz and Zarin, the punishment would have been carried out on the basis of an illegal tribal court decision -- a ruling based on a loose interpretation of Islamic law and local tribal customs without a certified Islamic judge.
"It is an illegal violation of judicial process and it is not Islamic," he says. "No one has the right to take such actions against other people based on their own judgment. This kind of punishment is against all the principles of human rights as well as against Islamic edicts and teachings."
Mahmoudi maintains that ultimately it is the responsibility of Afghanistan's central government to ensure that laws are properly enforced and that tribal courts stop carrying out their own interpretation of Islamic law.
Written by Ron Synovitz, with reporting by RFE/RL Radio Free Afghanistan correspondents Shapoor Saber in Herat and Norias Nori in Prague