Afghan Taliban say Swedish charity can re-open Afghan clinics


KABUL: The Afghan Taliban gave “permission” on Friday for a Swedish aid group to reopen its clinics west of Kabul, after the insurgents ordered the facilities’ closure over a controversial Afghan army raid.

Afghan officials have said little about the raid in Wardak province the night of July 8-9, when commandos allegedly killed at least four people including a lab worker, a guard, and two caregivers.

In the wake of the assault on the clinic, run by the Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA), the Taliban ordered the agency to close 42 of its 77 facilities.

In a statement, the insurgents had said the closure was ordered due to “some problems” and that the Swedish aid group “did not remain impartial”.

The Taliban went on to blame the raid on both Afghan and United States forces.

The group reversed its decision on Friday, saying their “health commission has given them permission restart their operations”.

The SCA had condemned the clinic raid through a press release, calling it a gross violation of international humanitarian law.

The group said it had immediately begun re-opening clinics and asking staff to report for work.

The US military has declined to comment on the incident, referring a query to the Afghan defence ministry.

Fawad Aman, a ministry spokesman, told AFP that an investigation was ongoing, but noted that Taliban militants often hide in people’s homes and sometimes use hospitals as a shield during clashes with security forces.

The Taliban have previously closed health clinics and banned polio vaccination campaigns in areas under their control.

In some places, insurgents and religious leaders tell communities that vaccines are a Western conspiracy aiming to sterilise Muslim children, or that such programmes are an elaborate cover for Western or Afghan government spies.

Last year, the Taliban warned the International Committee of the Red Cross that the group would no longer protect its workers.