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U.N. Says Afghan Civilian Deaths Increase by 40 Percent |
By ALAN COWELL
Published: February 17, 2009
PARIS — A United Nations report said on Tuesday that civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by 40 percent last year, more than half of them resulting from roadside bomb and suicide attacks by militants, but many ascribed to air strikes and other actions by NATO and American forces battling the resurgent Taliban.
The level of civilian casualties was the highest since the American-led invasion in late 2001 that dislodged the Taliban government, the report said.
The findings , published in Kabul and Geneva, deepened worries about civilians trapped between the combatants in an intensifying war that looms as one of the main foreign policy challenges facing the Obama administration. Richard C. Holbrooke, the special U.S. envoy for Afghanistan and Pakistan, has just completed a tour of the region.
President Obama is already weighing whether to double the American troop deployment in Afghanistan to about 60,000. But Afghan officials, including President Hamid Karzai, have voiced mounting concerns about civilian casualties, arguing that more troops could lead to more fatalities.
The most glaring recent example of civilian casualties came last week when five children were killed in predawn fighting between Australian special operations troops and Taliban guerrillas in south-central Afghanistan. Such episodes have reduced support among the Afghans for foreign troops on their soil.
But ,the latest report suggested, civilians have more to fear from the insurgents. A joint statement Tuesday from the Afghan Interior Ministry and the U.S. Command in Kabul said a roadside bomb on Monday killed five civilians near Kandahar and coalition forces who went to investigate came under small arms fire.
The United Nations report, compiled by a human rights unit, said the death toll among civilians rose from 1,523 in 2007 to 2,118 in 2008, most of them in the south of the country where fighting is generally at its most intense.
The insurgents were blamed for 1,160 deaths — an increase of 65 per cent over similar attacks in 2007, the report said.
“2008 saw a distinct pattern of attacks by the armed opposition in crowded residential and other such areas with apparent disregard for the extensive damage they can cause to civilians,” a summary of the report said.
The report also took issues with “an intimidation campaign that includes the summary execution of individuals perceived to be associated with, or supportive of the government and its allies.”
The report said 828 deaths — or 39 percent of the total — were caused by pro-government forces, an increase of almost a third over the 2007 level.
“Air strikes remain responsible for the largest percentage of civilian deaths attributed to pro-government forces,” the report said, killing 552 civilians in 2008, two-thirds of the total number of civilians killed by pro-government forces.
It said 130 deaths “could not be attributed to any of the conflicting parties since, for example, some civilians died as a result of cross-fire or were killed by unexploded ordinance.”
source" http://w ww.nytimes.com/2009/02/18/world/asia/18a fghan.html?_r=1&hp