Civilians under unnecessary risk in Swat: HRW

Posted in Pakistan | 19-May-09 | Source: dawn.com (Pakistan)

Mingora residents told Human Rights Watch that fewer than 10,000 civilians remain in Mingora.

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan army and Taliban militants fighting in Swat are placing civilians ‘at unnecessary risk', causing heavy casualties, Human Rights Watch said in a statement released on Monday.

Residents told the rights watchdog that ‘Taliban militants have laid landmines in the town and prevented many civilians from fleeing, using them as ‘human shields' to deter attack', it said in the statement released in New York.

Meanwhile, Pakistani forces ‘appeared to have taken insufficient precautionary measures in aerial and artillery attacks that have caused a high loss of civilian life' the statement added.

HRW urged the Taliban to allow civilians to escape the combat zone.

‘The Taliban's use of landmines and human shields is a sorry addition to their long list of abuses in the Swat valley', said HRW's Asia director, Brad Adams.

‘They urgently need to let civilians leave areas of fighting.'

The report adds: Mingora residents told Human Rights Watch that fewer than 10,000 civilians remain in Mingora. Taliban forces have prevented many from leaving, while others are too infirm or poor, or are unwilling to leave. Several thousand Taliban remain in the town. The Taliban also continued to use battery-operated FM radios and patrols to communicate with residents and impose their authority.

The on-going military offensive of the army against Taliban militants in Swat was launched on May 7.

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