The top United Nations official in Afghanistan Thursday strongly condemned a deadly attack by the Taliban against Government officials in the south-western province of Farah, and reiterated the need for all parties involved in the conflict to protect civilians.
"The United Nations again calls on the Taliban to follow through on their previous public commitments to protect civilians," said the Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, Ja'n Kubi.
At least 41 people were killed in the 3 April attack, the majority of them Government officials, including two judges and six prosecutors. More than 100 other people were injured. The attack is the deadliest against Afghan civilians since December 2011.
The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which Kubi heads, expressed "its deepest condolences to the victims of the attack and their families," and wished a speedy recovery to those injured.
The attack on the government compound was reportedly aimed at freeing 15 Taliban prisoners who were being transferred to the courthouse for trial.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, stating they intended to target civilian workers in the courts and prosecutors' offices.
Kubi pointed out that the Taliban had previously committed to protecting civilians, and that what constitutes a "civilian requiring protection" is defined by international law and not a matter of controversy.
"International humanitarian law defines civilians as all those who do not take a direct part in hostilities and who are not combatants - such as civilian Government employees," UNAMA noted in its statement. "Attacks against civilians are prohibited at all times and may amount to war crimes."
"With the onset of the spring fighting season, UNAMA again highlights the obligations of parties to take all necessary measures to protect civilians," the Mission stated.
As part of its UN Security Council mandate, UNAMA works with Government and civil society actors to increase protections for civilians. Senior officials, including Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, have expressed concern about civilians increasingly bearing the brunt of the conflict in Afghanistan.