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Taliban use civilians as shields, officials say
By Farzad Lameh
KABUL – Afghan Taliban are violating their own “code of conduct,” officials and leaders say.
Although the Taliban issued a written code in early August urging insurgents to avoid killing civilians, the civilian death toll keeps mounting.
Last week, the Taliban killed three Afghan civilians and wounded 15 in eastern Afghanistan, according to the Afghan government and Afghan National Security Force reports.
That follows a UN report that civilian casualties increased 31% in the first six months of 2010 compared to the same period last year.
“These Taliban fighters have no respect for the holy month of Ramadan, mosques, or any of the important tenets of Islamic culture that the average Afghan citizen holds as important,” a spokesman of Regional Command-East said in a newsletter August 19.
“They continue to kill innocent civilians and are destroying the very Afghanistan they claim to be championing.”
Code of conduct calls for restraint against killing civilians
The code lists guidelines for restraint that Taliban leader Mullah Muhammad Omar issued after the killing of chief Taliban commander Mullah Dadullah last year in southern Helmand Province. However, Afghan officials say, none of them has been implemented.
The new code says "all mujahideen must do their best to avoid civilian deaths and injuries and damage to civilian property."
And it states that mujahideen "should refrain" from disfigurements, such as severing ears, noses and lips.
Also, Mullah Omar has said proper treatment of the population would enable his fighters to win their hearts and come closer to victory. Khalid Pashtun, Kandahar’s representative in the Afghan parliament, termed the rules useless.
“This is not a new thing; the Taliban leadership has already issued many such guidelines … but nothing has changed in (the Taliban’s) behaviour and they are still doing all this stuff,” he told Central Asia Online.
The Taliban code further calls for restrictions on suicide attacks in order to prevent killing civilians.
"Suicide attacks should be at high-value and important targets because a brave son of Islam should not be used for low-value and useless targets," the code says. "In suicide attacks, the killing of innocent people and damage to their property should be minimised."
Code of conduct called 'propaganda' by official
The code is “propaganda," and the Taliban "cannot implement it,” Defence Ministry spokesman Gen. Zaher Azimi said.
The Taliban make their own rules impossible to follow by hiding within the population rather than fighting in the desert, Pashtun said.
“A week ago, a head that the Taliban cut off was found on the road … in Kandahar; another man and woman were stoned to death in Kunduz Province last week,” he said. “Mullah Dadullah, who was killed last year, can be seen on video personally beheading innocent people.”
A member of parliament, Muhammad Daoud Sultanzoy, agreed with Azimi’s assessment that the Taliban still exploit civilians in warfare.
“The Taliban’s use of civilians as shields negates their announced decision to hold down civilian deaths,” he said.
“Just two weeks ago, the Taliban went to my own village and … shot my cousin in the head. He was just an ordinary farmer.”
Sultanzoy is equally unimpressed by the Taliban’s appeal to Islamic countries, international forces, the Afghan government and the Afghan Human Rights Independent Commission (AHRIC) to form a panel to study how to minimise civilian casualties in Afghanistan.
“This is propaganda (stunt), no more,” he said.
However, AHRIC spokesman Nadir Naderi welcomed the Taliban’s suggestion, while asking for guarantees of participants’ security.