Following the deaths of at least 18 women, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) today called on the Taliban leadership to publicly reiterate a ban on landmine-like improvised explosive device (IEDs) and to stop their use.
“Any use of this heinous weapon should cease immediately,” added the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Ján Kubiš, in a news release. “I repeat once again UNAMA’s many calls to all anti-Government elements to protect and respect the lives of all Afghan civilians.”
The UNAMA news release noted that the Mission condemned the killing of at least 18 women in Dawlatabad District, Balkh, in the country’s north, on Friday, and “offers its condolences to the families of those killed and wishes a speedy recovery for those injured.”
The deaths occurred early on Friday morning when a civilian bus taking guests to a wedding celebration drove over a pressure plate IED planted on a busy public road. UNAMA said another 15 civilians were injured, including six children, seven women and two men. No combatant casualties were reported.
The Mission stated that Taliban operatives active in Dawlatabad District are suspected of planting the anti-personnel landmine-like pressure plate IED, “which is consistent with documented patterns and tactics of choice by the Taliban.”
“Although the Taliban through its leader Mullah Omar banned the use of anti-personnel landmines in 1998 denouncing such weapons as ‘un-Islamic’ and ‘anti-human,’ anti-Government elements continue to use these landmine-like IEDs with devastating harm to civilians,” the Mission said.
IEDs are by far the biggest killer of civilians in Afghanistan’s armed conflict, according to UNAMA.
The Mission’s tracking of civilian casualties reveals that IEDs killed 340 civilians and injured a further 599 over the past nine months, between 1 January and 30 September – an increase of almost 30 per cent compared to the same period last year. The majority of IEDs used in Afghanistan are victim-activated pressure plate IEDs and cause the most civilian deaths and injuries.
Victim-activated pressure plate IEDs function like massive anti-personnel land mines, which are a prohibited weapon under international law. “These IEDs are particularly harmful as they fail to distinguish between military and civilian targets and can be detonated by any person, including children stepping on them or any vehicle driving over them,” UNAMA added.