Taliban reject reports of killing Afghan civilians

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Spin Boldak, Afghanistan, Apr 18: Afghanistan's Taliban today rejected as totally baseless a report by a US-based rights group that accused them of war crimes for targeting civilians.

A Taliban spokesman, Zabullah Mujahid, said the report released this week by Human Rights Watch was disinformation and Western propaganda.

''The Taliban only target foreign and Afghan military personnel and those who help them,'' Mujahid said by satellite telephone from an undisclosed location.

Human Rights Watch said suicide bombings and other insurgent attacks had risen dramatically since 2005, and the Taliban and other insurgent groups killed almost 700 civilians last year.

More than 4,000 people were killed last year as a resurgent Taliban stepped up attacks, particularly in the south and east.

Afghan officials say about a quarter of the dead were civilians.

Mujahid said foreign troops were killing civilians: ''US-led coalition forces began the killing of civilians''.

''They have killed thousands of civilians in their bombing and operations in all areas of our country, but Human Rights Watch does not watch those,'' he said.

Many Afghan civilians have been killed accidentally in foreign military air strikes since US-led forces ousted the Taliban in 2001. The government has repeatedly urged foreign forces to exercise the utmost care.

Human Rights Watch has put out reports critical of foreign troops over civilian casualties.

On Saturday, Afghanistan's Independent Human Rights Commission issued a report saying US Marines broke the law when they killed several civilians in apparently indiscriminate shooting in Jalalabad after their convoy was bombed.

Foreign forces say the Taliban often attack them from villages where civilians are present. They also say the majority of victims of Taliban bomb attacks aimed at foreign or Afghan forces are passers-by.

The Taliban claimed responsibility for a bomb attack in the city of Kandahar yesterday that killed four Nepali contractors working for the United Nations and their Afghan driver.

Mujahid said Human Rights Watch and the United Nations were American puppets.

''The Taliban are never involved in the killing of Afghan civilians. We're fighting for the freedom of Afghanistan and we will continue our jihad (holy war) against occupying foreign troops and their Afghan puppets,'' he said, referring to the Western-backed government.

Reuters

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