HRW criticises Pak Army, Taliban for risking Swat civilians | world | Hindustan Times
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HRW criticises Pak Army, Taliban for risking Swat civilians

An international human rights watchdog on Tuesday criticised both, the Pakistani army and the Taliban for putting civilians at 'unnecessary risk' in their continued fighting in the Swat Valley.

world Updated: May 19, 2009 08:32 IST

An international human rights watchdog on Tuesday criticised both, the Pakistani army and the Taliban for putting civilians at "unnecessary risk" in their continued fighting in the Swat Valley.

"The Taliban's use of landmines and human shields and the Pakistani army's aerial and artillery attacks are placing civilians at unnecessary risk," the Human Rights Watch said.

The Watch said residents in the town of Mingora, the epicenter of the fighting, told it that Taliban militants have laid landmines in the town and prevented many civilians from fleeing, using them as "human shields" to deter attack.

It expressed concern that food and medical supplies were not reaching the population in the embattled area.

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

"They urgently need to let civilians leave areas of fighting." Human Rights Watch said that the Pakistani army chief Ashfaq Kayani, had given appropriate instructions to the Army on May 13 to, "ensure minimum collateral damage even at the expense of taking risks, by resorting to precision strikes."

However, it said it has received several accounts of high civilian casualties in Pakistani military attacks. On May 8, 35 people, including 14 children and four women, were killed when Pakistani army mortar shells and missiles struck the Shahdra and Wathke neighborhoods of Mingora.

Reportedly, none of those killed were Taliban fighters. On May 11, the military’s aerial bombardment of Matta, a Taliban-controlled district in central Swat, resulted in the deaths of at least three women and eight children, witnesses told Human Rights Watch.