Red Cross deplores attacks on Afghan civilians
Wed Jul 9, 2008 12:54pm BST
GENEVA, July 9 (Reuters) – The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on Wednesday on international and government forces as well as armed opposition fighters in Afghanistan to avoid harming civilians in the conflict.
In a statement on its website, http://www.icrc.org, the Swiss-based humanitarian organisation said civilians “must never be the target of an attack, unless they take a direct part in the fighting”.
The statement, from the ICRC’s chief representative in Kabul Franz Rauchenstein, was issued following Monday’s suicide car bomb attack on the Indian Embassy and reports of U.S.-led coalition air strikes killing members of a wedding party.
“We call on all parties to the conflict, in the conduct of their military operations, to distinguish at all times between civilians and fighters and to take constant care to spare civilians,” he said.
Whatever the methods of warfare chosen by the parties, “they must take all necessary precautions to verify that targets are indeed military objectives and that attacks will not cause excessive civilian casualties and damage”, the ICRC said.
A total of 41 people were killed and 139 wounded in Monday’s attack, widely blamed on the former ruling Taliban movement.
The ICRC said it was also concerned “about the reportedly high number of civilian casualties resulting from the recent (coalition) air strikes in the east of the country”. Several of the injured had surgery at an ICRC-supported hospital.
Last weekend, Afghan President Hamid Karzai ordered an investigation into one strike, which local officials say killed 15 civilians. Later reports said 23 people were killed in another incident involving a wedding convoy.
The U.S. military said only Taliban were killed in the first strike and that another strike had targeted militants while no civilians were in the area. Coalition forces say they take the utmost care to avoid killing civilians.
(Reporting by Robert Evans; Editing by Jonathan Lynn)
© Thomson Reuters 2008 All rights reserved.