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Civilian casualties escalating in Afghanistan, says UN

Jun 29, 2009

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan has recorded 800 civilian casualties between January and May this year. Aid agencies say that conflicts between insurgent groups, international and Afghan forces have displaced tens of thousands of people – most of them are in need of protection and assistance.

Kabul: Civilian deaths resulting from armed hostilities between insurgents, the US military, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and government forces have increased by 24% so far this year compared to the same period in 2008, according to a report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

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In May alone, 261 non-combatants lost their lives in conflict in Afghanistan, John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told members of the Security Council at a meeting on June 26.

One of the worst incidents was in May when dozens of civilians, among them at least 65 women and children, were killed when US forces bombed a village in the Bala Bulok district of Farah Province, southwestern Afghanistan, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said on May 26.

“UNAMA [the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan] recorded 800 civilian casualties between January and May 2009, mostly in the south, southeast and eastern regions of the country,” states the UN Secretary-General’s report, which was released on June 23.

At least 55% of the recorded deaths were attributed to insurgents, 33% were caused by international and Afghan forces and 12% could not be attributed to any of the warring parties, the report said.

The UN SG’s report blamed the Taliban for most of the civilian casualties and welcomed measures adopted by international forces to minimise the impact of war on non-combatants.

Armed conflict has also displaced tens of thousands of people, leaving most in need of protection and assistance, aid agencies say.

Unprecedented rise

Since the fall of Taliban regime in 2001, insecurity has gradually plagued parts of the country, particularly the south.

In May 2009, security deteriorated to levels not seen since 2001, with over 1,000 recorded violent incidents, the UN report said.

While insurgency-related violence has been mostly concentrated in the volatile south and east, it has also expanded to central and northern areas of the country.

“The next period will likely experience an increase in the level of violence compared with the same period last year, including complex suicide attacks, intimidation and assassinations carried out by insurgents,” said the report.

In addition to adversely impacting the lives of civilians, the intensifying insecurity has posed serious threats to aid workers and has increasingly inhibited humanitarian access to large swathes of the country.

Over 60 security incidents involving NGOs were recorded from January 1 to June 15, 2009 by the Afghanistan NGOs Safety Office. Tens of aid workers were killed or kidnapped last year.

"Aid workers are concerned that violence will peak in the coming months as the country is set to hold elections in August"

Owing to a surge of US forces over the past few months and the expansion of newly trained Afghan forces, security has seen improvement in Kabul, Herat, Logar and Wardak provinces, states the UN report.

However, aid workers are concerned that violence will peak in the coming months as the country is set to hold presidential and provincial council elections in August. Insurgents have reportedly threatened to disrupt the elections process with more suicide attacks and roadside explosions.

Source : IRIN
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