KABUL - The UN urged Afghanistan’s Taliban leadership Saturday to enforce their ban on improvised explosive devices, a day after 19 wedding guests were killed by a roadside bomb in the north of the country.
The United Nations mission in Afghanistan “calls on the Taliban leadership to publicly reiterate a ban on these weapons and to stop their use”, it said, adding that IEDs caused “devastating harm to civilians”.
The call comes a day after a roadside explosion killed 19 civilians, most of them women and children who were on their way to a wedding party in Dawlat Abad district of the northern Balkh province.
A Taliban spokesman on Saturday denied their involvement in the incident, saying their fighters were not present in the area, a claim that was contested by the UN.
“Taliban operatives active in Dawlat Abad... are suspected of planting the landmine-like pressure plate IED, which is consistent with documented patterns and tactics of choice by the Taliban”, the statement said.
According to an earlier UN release, 1,145 civilians were killed in the war in the first six months of this year, with 80 per cent of the deaths blamed on insurgents. More than half were caused by roadside bombs.
Last year as a whole, a record 3,021 civilians died in the war, the United Nations has said.
It blames insurgents for 80 percent of the civilian casualties in 2012, saying pro-government forces, which include US-led NATO, were responsible for 10 percent. IEDs are also responsible for a large percentage of the deaths among the NATO force helping fight the Taliban.
The foreign combat troops are due to withdraw by the end of 2014 and there are fears that the Taliban will extend their activities across wider swathes of the country against ill-prepared Afghan forces.
Meanwhile, six Afghan policemen were shot dead after being poisoned by colleagues in southern Afghanistan, officials said Saturday.
The shooting, which is the latest in a series by Afghan security personnel targeting their local and foreign colleagues, occurred in Gereshk district of volatile Helmand province on Thursday. “A cook and a policeman first food-poisoned their colleagues in their post, and after they fell unconscious they were shot dead,” provincial spokesman Ahmad Zeerak told AFP.
He said the policeman involved in the shooting had been arrested but the cook was still at large. Farid Ahmad Farhang, a provincial police spokesman, confirmed the incident.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, according to purported spokesman Yousif Ahmadi, who said eight policemen were killed and their weapons seized.
Afghan police are the key force in supporting US-led NATO forces in a war against the Taliban militants.
Afghanistan has witnessed a surge in insider attacks, often by Taliban spies, in which more than 50 foreigners and dozens of local forces have been killed by their colleagues this year.
The unprecedented number of insider killings comes at a critical moment in the 11-year war, as US-led NATO forces plan to hand security responsibility to the Afghans ahead of a withdrawal of combat forces by the end of 2014.