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Red Cross defends Taliban first-aid courses

Associated Press / May 27, 2010

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GENEVA — The international Red Cross said yesterday that it would continue giving first-aid training and kits to Taliban fighters in Afghanistan, despite drawing angry e-mails from around the world and criticism from an Afghan official after the practice was publicized.

The International Committee of the Red Cross trained “over 70 members of the armed opposition’’ in first aid last month, along with more than 100 Afghan police and civilians, including taxi drivers.

The courses started in 2006, and the neutral group will continue as long as they are needed, said Red Cross spokesman Christian Cardon.

“It’s the core of the ICRC’s mandate to make sure that people are cured whether they are from one side or the other side,’’ he said.

On Tuesday, Britain’s Guardian newspaper quoted an unidentified official in Kandahar’s local government as criticizing the first-aid training, saying the Taliban did “not deserve to be treated like humans.’’

Cardon insisted that in Afghanistan most officials well understood and accepted the group’s 151-year history of treating all war wounded regardless of their background or affiliation.

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