The Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) on Wednesday expressed deep concerns over reports of an increase in the number of civilian casualties in the northern parts of the country amid the recent intense fighting between the Afghan security forces and the Taliban.
Sayed Mohammad Saame, head of the regional office of AIHRC said that over 107 Afghan civilians were killed and wounded since January as a result of fighting between Afghan forces and Taliban in four northern provinces of the country.
“We registered 107 civilian casualties since of the current year. Of that figure, 41 people were killed and 66 more got injuries. The children and women are also among those killed and wounded,” said Saame.
“The human rights commission of Afghanistan is seriously worried about this,” he said.
Certain factors such as the use of civilian homes as fighting positions, using civilians as human shields, and the use of sophisticated weapons during the battles were reasons for the casualties.
“The Taliban use areas and hillside where there are forests and then they flock on motorcycles to a certain area and start firing and create chaos for the people who then flee the area,” said Ajmal Faeez, the commander of Balkh police headquarters.
Currently, seven districts in Balkh, as well as Balkh-Jawzjan and Dara-e-Soof-Mazar highways, are coping with higher security threats.
“Regrettably, the Mazar-Jawzjan highway faces turbulent security--civilians were sacrificed on this highway,” said Afzal Hadid, the head of Balkh’s provincial council.
Last month, residents in Balkh claimed that at least nine civilians were killed and eleven others wounded in an airstrike on the Afghan forces in the province.
Security officials have said that most of the Taliban use the civilian population as human shields.
“An attack on a gathering killed 17 Taliban fighters wounded13,” said Mohammad Hanif Rezayee, a spokesman for the 209 Shaheen Army corps, referring to last month’s airstrike in Balkh.
He said that the security forces also arrested three Taliban fighters who were trying to flee the site of the attack in women's clothes.
Chimtal and Charbolak districts are among the volatile districts of Balkh.
Balkh police said that the security forces have brought the situation back to normal in both districts.
“According to our reports, Chimtal, Charbolak, Zari and Shortepa districts---in those areas the district chiefs were not able to control their own areas, but now the issue has been solved,” said Munir Ahmad Farhad, a spokesman for Balkh’s governor.