Saturday, March 6, 2010

Red Cross condemns Taliban use of booby trap bombs

The Red Cross today condemned the use of booby trap bombs by the Taliban in an area of southern Afghanistan that has been so heavily mined people are afraid to leave their homes.

The bombs -- or improvised explosive devices (IEDs) -- are also preventing refugees from returning to the area of Helmand province where US Marines have led 15,000 troops in an assault against the Taliban, it said.

In an unusually strong statement, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the use of IEDs -- the main weapon in the Taliban arsenal -- was "completely unacceptable."

The Marjah farming area has been so heavily mined with IEDs that civilians were largely confined indoors and the sick and injured could not be evacuated for help, it said.

People who fled the area before and during the assault, launched on February 13, feared returning to villages where commanders and residents have said the bombs are planted in fields, hanging from trees and even embedded in the walls of houses.

"Improvised mines and other explosive devices are posing a deadly threat to civilians in Marjah," Reto Stocker, head of the ICRC in Kabul, was quoted in a statement as saying.

"They make it almost impossible for people to venture out or to evacuate the sick and wounded, who therefore receive little or no medical care," he said.

The use of mines, and the lack of any measures to protect civilians "runs counter to the most basic principles of international humanitarian law," the statement said.

"Any use of these weapons, which are prohibited in the country under the Mine Ban Convention just as they are in 155 other countries, is completely unacceptable."

The Red Cross rarely employs such powerful language, preferring to raise such issues confidentially with all parties to the conflict, in hopes they will adhere to accepted guidelines for treatment of civilians and war wounded.

The Geneva-based organisation is one of the few that maintains a dialogue with the leadership of the Taliban, which is waging a brutal war against the foreign troops in Afghanistan supporting President Hamid Karzai's government.

The condemnation of the use of IEDs implies extreme frustration with the use of weaponry that by definition is indiscriminate in its targeting.

The Taliban is the only party in the conflict to use IEDs, said Bijan Farnoudi, the ICRC's spokesman in Kabul, adding: "The improvised mines in Marjah have been left behind in huge numbers by the Taliban."

A UN report released earlier this year said most civilian casualties in the Afghan war -- now in its ninth year since the overthrow of the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime -- are caused by Taliban attacks, mostly using IEDs and suicide bombers.

Operation Mushtarak ("Together" in Dari) is slowly winding down as resistance wanes from the Taliban, who for years controlled the area along with drug traffickers, NATO and Afghan commanders said this week.

But Afghanistan's defence ministry spokesman General Mohammad Zahir Azimi said IEDs are the main challenge facing troops yet to bring the area under complete control, and for civilians wanting to go home.

The UN said this week that 27,700 people left Marjah and Nad Ali, target areas of Mushtarak, which aimed to clear the way for the Afghan government to re-establish sovereignty, security and civil services.

By March 2, only 645 families, or about 4,500 people, had returned, the UN's Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UNOCHA) said.

"The conditions for return are not ideal as armed clashes are reputed to continue in a number of villages and IEDs are still present," UNOCHA said.

It said despite mine clearance efforts, IEDs were still being placed along the roads leading out of Marjah, which along with Taliban checkpoints were restricting movement of people and goods, leading to food shortages.

The ICRC's Stocker said little food was reaching Marjah as few commercial vehicles were able to enter.

"Sooner or later, residents and displaced persons will have no choice but to move about, if only to find food and water," he said.

"Sadly, there will almost certainly be casualties, as improvised mines and unexploded homemade bombs do not differentiate between a military vehicle and a boy on a bicycle."


  1. Never mind the civilians what about the troops.

  2. God bless the Red Cross, but you're kidding, right? How absurd to think the "terrorists" might give credence to "the basic principles of international humanitarian law"?????

    Does the ICRC not know that the terrorists: have no conscience; have no uniforms; are not party to conventional rules of warfare; are outside the wire of any and all laws? They are vicious ANIMALS run a muck, and when their bodies have turned to carcasses, their perished souls will burn in hell.

    I can just see them laughing ridiculously all the way back to their rightful holes in hills after reading this news flash.
    Jan D USA