An Afghan woman arrives for an appointment with a doctor at a youth healthcare centre in Kabul. File photo/AFP
Taliban militants have forced a Swedish charity to close dozens of health centres in a central Afghan province, accusing it of failing to provide safety to civilians, the organisation said on Wednesday.
Four people were killed at a Swedish Committee for Afghanistan (SCA) centre in Wardak province, west of Kabul, during a night raid by Afghan forces last week, SCA and Afghan government officials said.
The attack was condemned by the SCA, but the Taliban accused it failing to provide adequate security.
“We expect the SCA to shut down their services in Wardak province as they are unable to guarantee the safety of their Afghan employees,” Zabihullah Mujahid, a Taliban spokesman, said.
The SCA confirmed that the Taliban had forced it to close 42 of 77 health centres in Wardak. More than 5,700 patients were affected, it said.
The SCA has more than 6,000 Afghan employees operating in 14 Afghan provinces. It was founded in 1980 in response to the Soviet invasion, with the Swedish agency for development cooperation its largest international donor.
“Forcing SCA to close health facilities, hence denying people to receive medical treatment and health services, is an obvious violation of human rights and international humanitarian law,” said Sonny Mansson, SCA country director.
Earlier this year, the Taliban ordered the International Committee of the Red Cross and the World Health Organisation to stop operating in areas under their control, citing unspecified “suspicious” actions during vaccination campaigns.
Stakes are high for the talks which follow a week of US-Taliban negotiations with both sides eyeing a resolution to the bloody 18-year conflict.
The Taliban have steadfastly refused to discuss peace with Ghani, whom they consider a US stooge heading an illegitimate regime.
Now is the “right moment” for peace in Afghanistan, President Ashraf Ghani said on Wednesday as he once more called on the Taliban to negotiate with his government.
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Senior police official Azhar Mehesar told AFP the blast targeted a police team preparing to escort polio vaccinators in the city of Quetta and that those killed "include a policeman, a woman and a child".