KABUL (Reuters) – Taliban fighters used children as human shields to flee heavy fighting this week during an operation by foreign and Afghan forces to clear rebels from around a key hydro-electric dam, NATO said on Wednesday.
The Taliban have used human shields before, but never children, local residents say.
The fighting occurred during Operation Kryptonite on Monday, an offensive to clear insurgents from the Kajaki Dam area in southern Helmand province to allow repairs to its power plants and the installation of extra capacity.
“During this action … Taliban extremists resorted to the use of human shields. Specifically, using local Afghan children to cover as they escaped out of the area,” Colonel Tom Collins, a spokesman for the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF), told reporters in Kabul.
The Kajaki Dam fighting was in an area where 700 mainly foreign fighters, including Chechens, Pakistanis and Uzbeks, arrived from Pakistan this week to reinforce Taliban guerrillas.