Pakistan Observer

Afghan civilian death toll up by 15 per cent

Friday, July 15, 2011 - Kabul—The number of Afghan civilians killed in war-related violence rose 15 percent in the first half of this year, according to a U.N. report released Thursday that offered grim statistics about the human toll of increased fighting.

Violence has been on the rise as the Taliban and other insurgents try to regain territory lost in the fall and winter to the U.S.-led coalition in southern Afghanistan.

Fighting always picks up in the spring after the opium poppy crop is harvested in the south and the snow melts elsewhere in the mountainous country, allowing insurgents to move more freely. But suicide attacks and other bombings have intensified as militants try to undermine confidence in the Afghan government’s ability to provide security as the U.S. begins to withdraw some forces.

In a midyear report, the U.N. said 1,462 Afghan civilians lost their lives in the crossfire of the battle between Taliban insurgents and Afghan, U.S. and NATO forces. During the first half of last year, 1,271 Afghan civilians were killed.

Of the civilians killed so far this year, 444 were struck by IEDs; 304 died in ground combat and armed clashes; 190 government officials, tribal elders, peace council members and other pro-government individuals were assassinated; and 276 died in suicide bombings.

The number of suicide attacks remained steady with last year, but the number of civilians killed by them soared by 52 percent, the report said.

“Suicide attacks this year have become more complex, often using multiple bombers in spectacular attacks that kill many Afghan civilians,” the report said.

Airstrikes conducted by the U.S.-led coalition remained the leading cause of civilian deaths by pro-government forces. In the first six months of the year, 79 civilian deaths were attributed to air strikes — up 14 percent from the same period last year. —AFP
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