Taliban terrorists committed “widespread and grave” human rights violations while they fought Afghan government forces for control of the key northern city of Kunduz at the beginning of this month, reveals Afghanistan’s Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC).
The Afghan government has also accused the Taliban of carrying out human rights abuses during the two weeks of fighting in Kunduz, also spelled Kundoz, the capital of the Afghan province of the same name. Taliban insurgents, who held the city for three days, claim they sought to protect civilians.
According to the report, the series of crimes perpetrated by the Taliban in Kunduz include:
Civilian casualties, targeted killings and arbitrary executions, rape, torture and beatings, the use of civilians as human shields hostage taking, plunder and looting of public and private property, restrictions on access to basic services (food, drinking water, health services and education, electricity, transportation, etc.), blocking roads, paving the way for the escape of prisoners, displacement of families, wrong and inhumane treatment of prisoners of war and preventing the presentation of humanitarian aid to those in need.
Hospital statistics compiled by the commission revealed that “around 50 civilians were killed and 350 people were injured” in Kunduz.
Given that the compiled data only covers people who were treated in hospitals inside Kunduz, the casualties are likely much higher, notes AIHRC. Civilians who were likely treated elsewhere are not included.
Among the areas looted by the Taliban, identified as “anti-government armed elements” in the report, are government offices, media outlets, police stations, and non-governmental organization facilities, including a United Nations office.
“Since the beginning of this attack by the anti-government armed elements on Kundoz City and capturing of that city, widespread and grave human rights violations have been committed by the anti-government armed elements and large number of civilians who had no role in the fight have been victimized,” reports the commission.
“Our people recounted examples of the atrocities committed by (the Taliban),” Afghanistan’s Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah told reporters in the Afghan capital Kabul on Sunday, Reuters reports. “It shows no change in the behavior and politics of this criminal group.”
A spokesman for the Taliban repudiated the commission’s allegations.
“Eliminating enemy personnel and structures is part of war, however utmost care was taken in dealing with civilians and unwarranted trouble given to no one,” reportedly said Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, in a statement.
Although Taliban fighters reportedly claim they went into Kunduz to win “hearts and minds,” many of the city’s residents who were displaced by the insurgents offered a very different version of event.
According to the commission, the “serious and grave violations of humanitarian law” committed by the Taliban in Kunduz constitute war crimes that fall under the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court (ICC).
The ICC “is authorized to proceed and investigate” war crimes committed in Afghanistan, notes the commission.
Kunduz city is part of the Taliban’s former stronghold in northern Afghanistan and it is the first provincial capital to fall to the militants since they lost power following the U.S.-led invasion in October 2001. Taliban insurgents held the city for three days.
The Afghan National Defense and Security Forces (ANDSF) claim to be largely in control of Kunduz after rooting most of the insurgents out.
Afghan authorities alleged that “life is returning to normal with roads open, enabling deliveries of food and medicine,” reports the Associated Press (AP).
At least 22 civilians—patients and staff—were killed by a U.S. airstrike that struck a hospital in Kunduz run by Medecins Sans Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders) on October 3.