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Taliban using civilians as ‘human shields’ and children in war

Taliban can’t fight without doing so, authorities say

By Farzad Lameh


KABUL - Taliban insurgents increasingly are using civilians as "human shields" in their fight against the population, government and international forces in Afghanistan, officials said The Taliban frequently resort to that tactic when they are surrounded, Ghazi Nawaz Tanai, head of the tribal solidarity council in southern Afghanistan, said.

“They are going to hide in dwellings, and people cannot stop them from entering as they don’t have weapons,” Tanai told to Central Asia Online, adding that civilians who try to resist "will be shot to death by insurgents." "It's not new; the Taliban have used civilians as human shields and are still doing it," Shahzada Massood, an advisor to President Hamid Karzai, told Central Asia Online.

“Where our governance is weak, the Taliban are pushing civilians to co-operate with them and civilians can't resist, since they're unarmed." A UN survey (2010 Mid-Year Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict) released in August confirmed that the Taliban use civilians as shields in continuing their attacks on Afghan and international forces.

The Taliban also are exploiting children in the war, Massood said.

“The Taliban are training children under the age 15, and then using them as fighters,” Massood said, adding, “These training camps are outside Afghanistan, not inside."

The UN report said176 children were killed and 389 injured in the first six months of 2010, up 55% from the same period last year.

The rise in insurgent violence has caused a 31% increase in the number of Afghan civilians killed in the first six months of 2010 compared to that period last year, the UN also found. It added that anti-government forces accounted for 76% of civilian casualties, up from 53% last year.

The Taliban denies accusations of indifference to civilian casualties and issued in August a "code of conduct" that forbids their fighters from seizing weapons and money. The same code orders insurgents to kill Afghans who are serving with foreigners in Afghanistan.

"All Mujahideen must do their best to avoid civilian deaths and injuries and damage to civilian property," the code orders. But observers doubt insurgents' commitment to following it.

“Insurgents don’t have any other way of escaping death except using civilians as shields,” Babrak Shenwarai, member of parliament from Nangahar, said.

He called the code useless.

Civilian casualties are a sensitive issue in Afghanistan, where President Hamid Karzai’s administration always has emphasised avoiding them and international forces have made civilian safety their highest priority.

“The human cost of this conflict is unfortunately rising,” Staffan de Mistura, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, said in Kabul while presenting the UN's mid-year report on civilian casualties.

Afghan civilian deaths soared to 2,412 last year – the highest number in the past nine years of warfare, according to the UN, but deaths attributed to allied troops dropped nearly 30%.

In 2010's first six months, more than 1,250 civilians were killed and another 1,997 civilians wounded.

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