UN renews call for protecting civilians
KABUL (PAN): With fighting expected to escalate in coming months, the United Nations on Sunday renewed its call for parties to the conflict in Afghanistan to take all necessary measures to protect civilians.
Ambassador Staffan de Mistura, the UN chief in Afghanistan, said: "Parties to the conflict must not deliberately attack, target or kill civilians, or indiscriminately harm them. We call on all parties to take all possible measures to protect civilians."
A day earlier, the Taliban declared a start to the spring offensive, warning of attacks government officials, members of Cabinet, Parliament and the High Peace Council, and heads of foreign and Afghan companies working for the government.
Urging the insurgents to refrain from attacking those who were not taking a direct part in hostilities, the UN mission chief said warring parties were obliged to spare civilian locations or in areas such as government buildings, bazaars and parks.
The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by the Taliban in cities, and the use of IEDs with pressure plates that cannot distinguish between military objects such as tanks and civilian objects such as cars and minibuses cause huge numbers of civilian casualties.
While asking the fighters to distinguish between military and civilian objects, a statement from de Mistura also urged pro-government forces to take all precautions to protect ordinary people and prevent civilian casualties.
"Air attacks by international military forces have resulted in the most civilian casualties caused by these forces. The United Nations calls on international military forces to strictly enforce international laws and tactical directives that regulate air strike."
Night raids by government forces sparked fear, anger and resentment among many communities, the UN statement said, stressing full respect for Afghan cultural and religious practices and minimising harm to civilians.
"In view of their specific threat, I call on the Taliban to carry out their previously stated decision to avoid civilian casualties," said de Mistura. "Afghan civilians have paid the price of war for too long – it is more urgent than ever that all parties act to prevent this suffering…"
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