Kabul: The Red Cross on Saturday condemned the use of booby trap bombs by the Taliban in an area of southern Afghanistan that has been so heavily mined people are afraid to leave their homes.
The bombs -- known as improvised explosive devises (IEDs) -- are also preventing refugees from returning to the area of Helmand province where US Marines have led 15,000 troops in an assault against the Taliban, it said.
In an unusually strong statement, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said the use of IEDs -- the main weapon in the Taliban arsenal -- was "completely unacceptable".
The Marjah farming area has been so heavily laced with IEDs that civilians are largely confined indoors and the sick and injured cannot be evacuated for help, it said.
People who fled the area before and during the assault, launched on February 13, feared returning along heavily-mined roads to villages where commanders and residents have said the bombs are planted in fields, hanging from trees and even embedded in the walls of houses.
"Improvised mines and other explosive devices are posing a deadly threat to civilians in Marjah," Reto Stocker, head of the ICRC in Kabul, was quoted in a statement as saying.
"They make it almost impossible for people to venture out or to evacuate the sick and wounded, who therefore receive little or no medical care," he said.
The use of mines, and the lack of any measures to protect civilians "runs counter to the most basic principles of international humanitarian law," the statement said.
"Any use of these weapons, which are prohibited in the country under the Mine Ban Convention just as they are in 155 other countries, is completely unacceptable."
The Red Cross rarely employs such powerful language, preferring to use its neutrality to influence all parties to armed conflict to adhere to accepted guidelines for treatment of civilians and war wounded.
The Geneva-based organisation is one of the few that has dialogue with the leadership of the Taliban, which is waging a brutal war against the presence of foreign troops in Afghanistan supporting President Hamid Karzai`s government.
The condemnation of the use of IEDs implies extreme frustration with the way the Taliban has deployed weaponry that is by definition indiscriminate in its targeting.