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UN chief calls on Taliban to halt offensive against Gov't forces

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UN chief calls on Taliban to halt offensive against Govt forces
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United Nations: The UN Secretary-General on Friday called on Taliban militants to "immediately halt" their offensive against Government forces and return to the negotiating table in good faith, "in the interest of Afghanistan, and its people."

"Horrifying" reports have emerged that the Taliban have severely restricted the rights of Afghan women and girls in areas they have seized, United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said Friday.

The Taliban have been inching closer to Kabul and full control of Afghanistan, fueling fears of a return to their brutal regime that was toppled by the United States-led 2001 invasion.

"I'm... deeply disturbed by early indications that the Taliban are imposing severe restrictions on human rights in the areas under their control, particularly targeting women and journalists," Guterres told reporters.

"It is particularly horrifying and heartbreaking to see reports of the hard-won rights of Afghan girls and women being ripped away," he added.

The UN chief warned that "directing attacks against civilians is a serious violation of international humanitarian law and amounts to a war crime."

Security forces in Afghanistan have capitulated on fronts, with individual soldiers, units and even whole divisions surrendering -- handing the insurgents even more vehicles and military hardware to fuel their lightning advance.

The UN chief said the fighting between Taliban and Afghan security forces for control of cities and towns, was "causing tremendous harm. At least 241,000 people have been forced to flee from their homes…Hospitals are overflowing. Food and medical supplies are dwindling. Roads, bridges, schools, clinics and other critical infrastructure are being destroyed", he added.

"Continued urban conflict will mean continued carnage," he said, with civilians inevitably paying the highest price.

"I call on all parties to take heed of the conflict's heavy toll and its devastating impact on civilians. They all must do more to protect civilians."

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TAGS:Taliban Taliban talks UN chief Antonio Guterres 
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