US Calls for Taliban to be 'Held Accountable for War Crimes' in Kandahar – Embassy in Kabul
13:40 GMT 02.08.2021 (Updated: 16:29 GMT 02.08.2021)
Kandahar city is one of three major Afghan cities to come under siege by the Taliban this week. The Islamist militia began a major offensive across much of Afghanistan in April in the wake of announcements by the US and NATO that foreign forces would be pulling out of the war-torn country after 19+ years of occupation.
The leadership of the Taliban "must be held accountable" for recent suspected war crimes in Kandahar province, the US Embassy in Kabul has said.
"In Spin Boldak, Kandahar, the Taliban massacred dozens of civilians in revenge killings. These murders could constitute war crimes; they must be investigated and those Taliban fighters or commanders responsible held accountable," the Embassy said in a two-part tweet on Monday.
"The Taliban's leadership must be held responsible for the crimes of their fighters. If you cannot control your fighters now, you have no business in governance later," the diplomatic mission added.
Last week, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission concluded
that the Taliban's takeover of the Spin Boldak district of Kandahar province on 14 July was followed by sweeps of local communities searching for current and former civil servants and government supporters, with some 40 civilians said to have been killed in revenge attacks.
Taliban fighters reportedly fled into Pakistan
after Afghan forces retook Spin Boldak following the massacres. In the days after the incident, an Afghan Defence Ministry spokesperson told Sputnik that over 100 residents
of the town were killed during the Taliban's rampage.
"While the Taliban leadership has officially stated that its affiliated militants will not harm civilians or civilian facilities...this and other similar incidents show that contrary to what they proclaim, the group has no practical commitment to the principles of international human rights and humanitarian law," the commission suggested
The body called on both sides and the Taliban "in particular" to fulfil their obligations "to protect the civilians' right to life and physical integrity and to refrain from retaliatory attacks."
The allegations of war crimes come amid the continuation
of heavy fighting
between Taliban fighters and government forces for three strategic cities, including Kandahar, Herat and Lashkar Gah, with the attacks reported to be the largest of their kind since the Islamist militia's 2017 Kunduz offensive.
The assault on Kandahar – Afghanistan’s second largest city – saw Taliban forces shell the city’s airport with at least three rockets on Sunday morning, with police reporting that at least five civilians were killed in a separate incident in which a mortar shell hit a taxi.
A Taliban spokesman confirmed to Reuters that the group had attacked the airport, saying it was targeted “because the enemy were using it as a centre to conduct air strikes against us.”
In Herat, hundreds of special forces commandos were deployed on Sunday to shore up local defenders' positions in fighting on the outskirts of the city. Local authorities estimate that about 100 Taliban fighters were killed, with Herat's regional hospital reporting that at least 16 security services personnel and four others perished, with 90 people wounded total, in the past four days of violence.
In Lashkar Gah, heavy fighting has led to shut off of power and telecommunications, with unconfirmed reports suggesting that the Taliban has penetrated the city and is engaged in street-to-street fighting with commandos sent there to try to expel them. The Afghan air force and its US allies reportedly engaged in aerial attacks of urban areas, leading to fears of civilian casualties. Local media suggest that up to eight women and children were killed in recent airstrikes.
Unauthenticated photos also show fighters – some of them without any shoes – posing with weapons near the city centre.
Afghanistan’s Defence Ministry announced earlier on Monday that some 38 Taliban fighters had been killed and two wounded while attempting to storm a prison in Lashkar Gah, were as many as several thousand fighters are held.
Lashkar Gah is situated in Helmand province, a poppy field-rich area of Afghanistan which produces much of the opium for Afghan heroin. Both the Taliban and Afghan government forces have accused one another of facilitating the illegal opium trade. The Taliban has vowed to stamp out the opium trade in areas under its control.
The assaults on the cities come in the wake of the Taliban’s seizure of wide swathes of sparsely populated rural areas in recent months, and claims by the militants that they were in control of up to 85 percent of Afghanistan’s territory and up to 90 percent of its frontier with other nations. Kabul vigorously disputed these claims as “baseless propaganda” and stressed that the government remains in charge of all the “main cities and highways” and all of the country’s provincial capitals.