The Taliban takes a cue from Hizballah, perhaps, in exploiting casualties caused by the use of human shields, a practice banned by the Fourth Geneva Convention (see Article 28). “NATO says Taleban using civilians as shields, as high toll feared,” from AFP:
KABUL – The NATO force in Afghanistan Thursday accused the Taleban of using civilians as human shields, as authorities scrambled to verify reports that at least 60 people were killed in military strikes.
The International Security Assistance Force said it could not say how many civilians were killed in a series of operations in the southern province of Kandahar late Tuesday, but was helping Afghan authorities to find out.
ISAF said late Wednesday that 48 Taleban were killed in three engagements, including air strikes, in Kandahar’s Panjwayi area late Tuesday.
However, the chief of Panjwayi district, Niaz Mohammad Sarhadi, said he had reports that about 60 locals were killed in aerial bombing that also destroyed a number of houses.
Deputy director of Kandahar provincial council, Bismellah Afghanmal, put the figure as high as 85, but national authorities could not immediately confirm the local reports, which have in the past been exaggerated.
Asked about civilian casualties, NATO civilian representative Mark Laity said “at the moment we don’t know”, adding any that had occurred were deeply regretted.
ISAF took great care to avoid civilian casualties, but the Taleban were mixing themselves among residents when attacked, NATO officials told reporters in the capital, Kabul.
“With insurgents who regard the population as a form of human shield for themselves, it obviously makes life very difficult for us, but it doesn’t stop us making every effort to ensure we minimise any problems,” Laity said.
“We know that the public rely on us and expect us to take every care, and if they (civilians) are accidentally killed then it can affect (public) faith in us,” he said.
ISAF was working with an Afghan defence ministry team that had been tasked to find out what had happened, he told reporters in Kabul.
“We are helping Afghan leaders there fly over the area to make an assessment,” added ISAF spokesman Major Luke Knittig at the same briefing.
The force would also attend a shura (council) being convened in the area to discuss the matter, he said.