Afghanistan: Taliban’s atrocious attacks on civilians show contempt for human life
Last night’s deadly siege in a central Kabul hotel is a stark reminder of the Taliban’s contempt for human life, which comes amid a worrying new surge in the armed group’s targeting of civilians around the country, Amnesty International said today.
According to media reports, up to 15 civilians, including both Afghans and foreigners, were killed and more injured when gunmen stormed the Park Palace Hotel as a garden party was being held there on Wednesday evening. The hotel, located near a hospital and compounds used by aid agencies, formerly hosted United Nations staff.
“This atrocious attack on a well-known hotel in central Kabul is a worrying sign that the Taliban’s spring offensive is in full swing, putting civilians at heightened risk of death and injury,” said Horia Mosadiq, Afghanistan Researcher at Amnesty International.
“There has been a worrying spike in assaults carried out by the Taliban and other armed groups on ‘soft targets’ across Afghanistan in recent weeks – of which this is just the latest attack – resulting in a high civilian death toll. Some of these attacks could amount to crimes against humanity or war crimes and the authorities must ensure full investigations with those suspected of criminal responsibility brought to trial.”
According to the Agency Coordinating Body of Afghan Relief and Development (ACBAR), seven humanitarian workers were among those killed in last night’s attack.
“Reports that several aid workers were among those killed are especially worrying – the Taliban are again targeting the very individuals and agencies who are committed to help ordinary Afghan people,” said Horia Mosadiq.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) also condemned a second attack yesterday on the Department of Haj and Religious Endowment in Lashkargah in Helmand, which killed three people. UNAMA said such “deliberate attacks on civilians are atrocities”.
In the first four months of 2015, UNAMA documented a record high number of 2,937 civilian casualties (974 civilian deaths and 1,963 injured), a 16 percent increase over the same period in 2014. The agency recently stated the Taliban and other armed groups are responsible for almost three-quarters of all civilian deaths in Afghanistan.
Every spring sees a rise in the number of Taliban attacks on so-called “soft targets” – places used and frequented by civilians – around Afghanistan. On 24 April they officially announced this year’s spring offensive.
Before the announcement, on 9 April Taliban attacked the Mazar-e-Sharif Attorney General’s office, killing 10 and injuring 65, mostly civilians.
On 4 May, Taliban attacked a bus carrying civilians to the Attorney General’s office in Kabul, killing one and injuring 15 others.
There are reports of attacks on civilians by the Taliban in rural parts of Afghanistan which never make the news headlines and remain largely unreported.
“The Taliban are well aware of their obligations under international humanitarian law, but they only refer to it when it suits them. The Taliban must immediately end their brutal practice of targeting and killing civilians and abide by the rules of war,” said Horia Mosadiq.
Meanwhile the Afghan government has a duty to make sure that all civilians and civilian objects are protected.
“President Ashraf Ghani recently stated that upholding fundamental human rights would be a ‘red line’ in negotiations with the Taliban. Protecting civilians and bringing their armed attackers to account will be one litmus test for whether he can follow through on this pledge,” said Horia Mosadiq.
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