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The Taliban and Afghan security forces must ensure that civilians are protected in accordance with international law and that nobody is targeted in reprisals against their work, Amnesty International said as fighting intensifies in the northern Kunduz province.

Heavy fighting is ongoing in Kunduz after the Taliban launched a major assault on the provincial capital this morning. There are unconfirmed reports of civilian casualties and the Taliban taking over official buildings, including a public hospital.

“The Taliban have many times in the past showed their callous disregard for human life and civilians often suffer the brunt of their attacks. As fighting rages in Kunduz, all sides must ensure that civilians and civilian objects are protected according to international humanitarian law, which governs all parties to an armed conflict,” said Horia Mosadiq, Amnesty International’s Afghanistan Researcher.

“Deliberately targeting civilians not directly participating in hostilities, as well as indiscriminate attacks or disproportionate attacks, would amount to war crimes.”

“The Taliban must not target any civilian simply for their work – whether they are a journalist, teacher, government official or rights activist – and must ensure that there are no reprisal attacks against them.”

“Reports that the Taliban have already sent armed fighters into a public provincial hospital are extremely worrying. Hospitals are places of sanctuary under international law and their staff must be allowed to do their vital life-saving work without the threat of violence or undue interference.”