Residents said the four bodies were brought to the city square in Herat. One was hung using a crane, while the other three were taken to other squares in the city to be displayed.
A local pharmacy owner, Wazir Ahmad Seddiqi, told Associated Press that the Taliban announced in the public square that the men were killed by the police for taking part in a kidnapping.
Local officials reiterated this. They alleged that the men were killed in a gun battle soon after they attempted to kidnap a local businessman and his son, and added that the group had intended to take the duo out of the city.
Taliban patrols that had set up checkpoints around the city saw the men. In the ensuing gun fire between the patrolmen and the alleged kidnappers, a civilian and a Taliban fighter were injured.
The businessman and his son were later freed by the officials.
Herat deputy governor Mawlawi Shir Ahmad Muhajir claimed the hangings would serve as a deterrent for others.
“In order to be a lesson for other kidnappers not to kidnap or harass anyone, we hung them in the squares of the city and made this clear to everyone that anyone who steals or abducts or does any action against our people will be punished,” he said, according to AFP.
Some graphic images of the bodies, covered in blood, were shared widely on social media. A note pinned to one of the dead bodies’ chests read: “This is the punishment for kidnapping.”
Another video showed a man hoisted from a crane with a note that read: “Abductors will be punished like this.”
The killings and subsequent hangings came just days after a top Taliban leader said the group would restore the use of amputations and executions as punishment in Afghanistan. Mullah Nooruddin Turabi had claimed last week that executions and amputations were “necessary for security” in the country.
On Friday, US state department spokesperson Ned Price said Washington condemned Mr Turabi’s comments “in the strongest terms”.
The Taliban’s punishments “would constitute clear gross abuses of human rights,” Mr Price said. “We stand firm with the international community to hold perpetrators of these, of any such abuses, accountable.”
Soon after storming to power by force in Afghanistan, the Taliban had promised to move away from its previous hardline and ultra conservative rule of the late 90s. But there have been signs in the last few weeks of a return to some of those policies, which included public stoning of alleged criminals.
In August, Amnesty International said Taliban fighters had “massacred nine ethnic Hazara men” after taking control of Afghanistan’s Ghazni province. Secretary general Agnès Callamard had said at the time that the “cold-blooded brutality of these killings is a reminder of the Taliban’s past record, and a horrifying indicator of what Taliban rule may bring.”