• Press Release

Afghanistan: Taliban tactics put civilians in harm’s way

September 29, 2015

The Taliban are exposing civilians to danger during the conflict in Kunduz by hiding in people’s houses and conducting door-to-door searches for Afghan security personnel or government staff, Amnesty International said. 

With fighting ongoing in Kunduz as Afghan security forces try to recapture the provincial capital, reports from local residents indicate that Taliban fighters have hidden in people’s houses to blend in with the civilian population. Government officials have also confirmed at least 16 civilian casualties, but the actual number could be much higher with the UN trying to confirm reports of at least 110 civilians killed. 

“Civilians are bearing the brunt of the horrific violence that is unfolding in Kunduz. By hiding in the residential homes Taliban fighters are exposing civilians to attacks. There are also reports of Taliban conducting house-by-house searches looking for people linked to the Afghan security forces or government,” said David Griffiths, South Asia Research Director at Amnesty International. 

Under international law, all parties to a conflict are required to take all feasible precautions to protect the civilian population under their control against the effects of attacks.

Looting of NGOs, media office torched

Since it launched its assault on Kunduz yesterday, sources have confirmed that the Taliban have looted offices and seized equipment and vehicles belonging to NGOs, including humanitarian organisations like the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). Such acts are prohibited under international law.

The Taliban have also burned down the offices and destroyed most of the equipment of Roshani TV and Radio in Kunduz. The independent media outlet was founded in 2002 and was known for focusing mainly on women’s issues. 

“Attacks targeting civil society groups and the media must end immediately. These organizations are carrying out vital work in Afghanistan and it is outrageous that they should be targeted in this way,” said David Griffiths.

“The torching of Roshani TV and Radio’s offices is a blatant attack on freedom of expression and a deeply ominous signal on women’s human rights. It is very worrying that mere hours after seizing control of the city, the Taliban already appear to be targeting independent media.”

Using humanitarian vehicles

Pictures on social media also purport to show Taliban fighters using a vehicle belonging to the ICRC. Killing, injuring or capturing an adversary while posing as medical workers – known as perfidy – is a war crime. 

“It is crucial that all parties to the conflict respect the independence and impartiality of humanitarian organizations. Under no circumstance should the logo of the ICRC be used by any combatant,” said David Griffiths.