Taliban denies killing civilians, calls for independent inquiry
The Taliban on Wednesday denied targeting and killing civilians during an offensive against Afghan government troops, calling for an independent investigation and seeking to assure Afghans that "no home or family shall face any threat from our side."
The Islamist militants issued a statement after the United Nations said more than 1,000 civilians had been killed in the past month and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said that since 1 August some 4,042 wounded people had been treated at 15 health facilities.
Taliban fighters have stepped up their campaign to defeat the US-backed government since April as foreign forces started to withdraw after 20 years of war. The group has seized eight provincial capitals in the past week, raising fears of a return to power of the hardline group.
Taliban spokesperson Suhail Shaheen said in a statement that the group "has not targeted any civilians or their homes in any locality, rather the operations have been undertaken with great precision and caution." He instead blamed Afghan government troops and foreign forces for any civilian deaths.
The United States refuted the Taliban's denial of responsibility.
"There is, everywhere you look, compelling data points, evidence, imagery of the violence, the bloodshed, the potential atrocities that the Taliban are committing," US State Department spokesman Ned Price told reporters. "We have see it with our own eyes, from some of the footage that's emerging."
The Taliban proposed that a team made up of the United Nations, ICRC and other aid groups accompany their representatives "to conduct an impartial and independent investigation into the latest events."
A spokesman for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres and Afghanistan's mission to the United Nations in New York did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Since the start of the year nearly 390,000 people have been newly displaced by the Afghan conflict with a "huge spike" since May, UN spokesman Stephane Dujarric told reporters on Wednesday.
"Between 1 July and 5 August 2021, the humanitarian community verified that 5,800 internally displaced persons and arrived in Kabul," Dujarric said.
Foreign forces aim to be completely out of Afghanistan by 11 September. US-backed Afghan forces ousted the Taliban from power in 2001 for refusing to hand over al Qaeda's Osama bin Laden after the 11 September 2001 attacks on the United States.