Pakistan army 'punishes civilians'

Amnesty International accuses troops of harassing families fleeing fighting

Civilians trying to flee the conflict zone in South Waziristan may be suffering collective punishment at the hands of the Pakistan army, and some have been banned from major roads, a human rights group has claimed.

Amnesty International said civilian members of the Mehsud tribe, trying to leave the region in rag-tag convoys often travelling on the backs of donkeys, were being unfairly harassed by troops suspicious that militants may be hiding among the refugees.

"Mehsud tribespeople, including women and children, are being punished on the roads as they flee simply because they belong to the wrong tribe," said Sam Zarifi, Amnesty's Asia-Pacific director. "This could amount to collective punishment, which is absolutely prohibited under international law."

In Pakistan, the wave of violence that prefaced the army's invasion of the Taliban stronghold continued, more than a week after the troops moved in. A suicide bomber killed eight people at a major air force complex yesterday and many more were wounded in an attack outside a restaurant in the city of Peshawar. In a third incident, up to 17 people travelling to a wedding were killed when their bus struck a landmine.

In the ninth attack on major government targets in the past three weeks, a lone bomber on a bicycle detonated a device at a checkpoint on a road leading to the air base at Kamra, 30 miles from Islamabad. The dead included two soldiers, and more than a dozen people were wounded. Fakhar Sultan Raja, the local police chief told the Associated Press: "The attacker wanted to go inside. He exploded himself when officials wanted to search his body."

Several hours later, in the north-west city of Peshawar, a suicide bomber attacked a complex that includes a restaurant and wedding halls. No one was killed but at least a dozen people were injured, some seriously. Hours later, a bus in the Mohmand tribal region was torn apart, apparently after it drove over a landmine. At least four women and three children were among the 17 people killed, said an official.

Pakistani troops continue to push into South Waziristan in pursuit of Taliban and al-Qa'ida fighters. Militants had warned that they would respond to any operation against them by attacking official targets, but the violence of the past three weeks – attacks included strikes on the army headquarters, UN offices and crowded markets – has unnerved many Pakistanis. This, presumably, is what the militants wish.

What is striking about the slew of attacks is the breadth of targets being struck. The base at Kamra had been identified as a complex where planes designed to carry nuclear warheads are kept, although the military has strongly denied that the base has any such function.

The army's operation in South Waziristan is targeting an estimated 10,000 Taliban previously loyal to the slain militant commander Baitullah Mehsud, along with about 1,000 al- Qa'ida fighters, mainly from Central Asia. The military has imposed a news blackout in the area and prevented journalists from reaching the front line.

But first-hand reports from Amnesty suggest there is considerable harassment of civilians as they try to leave South Waziristan. One member of the Mehsud tribe who spoke to an Amnesty representative outside the town of Tank said he was travelling as part of a group of five families who were trying to leave the area on donkeys but were unable to reach the homes of relatives because of fear of the army.

"We are not allowed to use the roads; the army does not allow any Mehsud to come to the road and use it," he said. "When we left our homes we took some food which we used the first two days and after that we had nothing at all and whatever was left we gave to the children. We drank only tea and water."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
peopleNational cycling charity CTC said he 'should have known better'
News
i100
Life and Style
The fashion retailers have said they will now not place any further orders for the slim mannequin
fashion
Arts and Entertainment
Ugne, 32, is a Lithuanian bodybuilder
tvThey include a Lithuanian bodybuilder who believes 'cake is a sin' and the Dalai Lama's personal photographer
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Business Operations Manager

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This organisation based in Peac...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £43,000

£20000 - £43000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful and rapidly gro...

Recruitment Genius: Laser Setter & Operator - Personalised Gift Company

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Laser Setter & Operator is re...

Recruitment Genius: Experienced PSV Coach & Minibus Drivers

£12500 - £24500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Drivers wanted for a family run...

Day In a Page

Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash
I would never quit Labour, says Liz Kendall

I would never quit party, says Liz Kendall

Latest on the Labour leadership contest
Froome seals second Tour de France victory

Never mind Pinot, it’s bubbly for Froome

Second Tour de France victory all but sealed
Oh really? How the 'lowest form of wit' makes people brighter and more creative

The uses of sarcasm

'Lowest form of wit' actually makes people brighter and more creative
A magazine editor with no vanity, and lots of flair

No vanity, but lots of flair

A tribute to the magazine editor Ingrid Sischy
Foraging: How the British rediscovered their taste for chasing after wild food

In praise of foraging

How the British rediscovered their taste for wild food