Taliban withdraws protection from Red Cross in Afghanistan

KABUL (Reuters) - The Taliban said on Wednesday it was withdrawing its security guarantee for the International Red Cross in Afghanistan after it said the organization neglected prisoners holding a hunger strike in the Pul-e Charkhi prison in Kabul.

FILE PHOTO: An Afghan man receives aid from the International Federation of the Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies after an earthquake, in Behsud district of Jalalabad province, Afghanistan October 28, 2015. REUTERS/Parwiz/File Photo

It said the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had failed to pressure prison officials into providing proper medical care for those on hunger strike.

“Therefore the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan announces the withdrawal of security commitment that had given to the International Red Cross for their activities in Afghanistan,” it said in a statement.

“The Islamic Emirate henceforth does not guarantee the protection of their lives and property until they come to an agreement with the Islamic Emirate to correct their actions.”

ICRC spokeswoman Sanela Bajrambasic said Red Cross representatives last visited Pul-e Charkhi prison on Monday to follow up on medical services provided to prisoners on hunger strike and provide intravenous solution.

As a neutral organization, she said the Red Cross took no position on the reasons or goals of the hunger strike and was neither trying to persuade the prisoners to end the hunger strike nor authorities to accept their demands.

She said the Red Cross tried to build relationships with all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan, where it has worked for more than 30 years.

“We rely on the parties to allow us to work in safety to protect and assist victims of the conflict. This is our sole objective,” she said.

She said the organization would engage directly with the Taliban and would not comment publicly.

The Red Cross announced last year it was scaling back operations in Afghanistan after attacks killed a number of its staff.

Reporting by James Mackenzie and Stephanie Ulmer-Nebehay in Geneva; Editing by Alison Williams