Taliban attack civilians to spread fear: Amnesty

Thu Apr 19, 7:10 AM ET

KABUL (Reuters) - Taliban insurgents are deliberately targeting Afghan civilians in order to instill fear and exert control over the population, the rights group Amnesty International said on Thursday.

In the second report from an international rights group this week accusing the Taliban of war crimes for targeting civilians, the London-based group called on all sides in the Afghan conflict to ensure that civilians are treated humanely.

"Afghan civilians are bearing the brunt of this conflict," Claudio Cordone, the group's senior director for research, said in a statement.

"But it is the Taliban who have a deliberate policy of targeting civilians -- they are killing teachers, abducting aid workers and burning school buildings," he said.

More than 4,000 people died in fighting last year as the Taliban intensified their insurgency to oust foreign troops. Afghan officials say about a quarter of those killed were civilians.

Amnesty International said at least 756 civilians were killed last year by bombs, mostly on roads or carried by suicide attackers,

NATO and U.N. figures show.

"By using indiscriminate attacks such as suicide bombings in public places and by deliberately targeting civilian workers, the Taliban are committing war crimes," Cordone said.

"The fact that such attacks are widespread and carried out as part of Taliban policy makes them also crimes against humanity."

In a report on Monday New York-based Human Rights Watch charged the Taliban with committing war crimes.

A Taliban spokesman rejected that report as baseless disinformation and Western propaganda.

The spokesman, Zabullah Mujahid, said the Taliban only targeted foreign and Afghan military personnel and those who helped them.

He said foreign troops, not the Taliban, were to blame for civilian deaths.

Many Afghan civilians have been killed accidentally in foreign military air strikes since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001. The government has repeatedly urged foreign forces to exercise the utmost care.

Human rights groups have also criticized foreign forces over civilian deaths.

Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission said in a recent report that U.S. Marines had broken the law in March when they killed several civilians in apparently indiscriminate shooting in Jalalabad after their convoy was bombed.


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