Refugee AFGHANISTAN civilian violence worse than ever

Afghanistan: civilian casualties ‘on the rise’

Page last updated at 11:46 GMT, Monday, 12 July 2010 12:46 UK

Civilians are suffering most in the conflict

More than 1,000 Afghan civilians were killed in armed violence and security incidents in the first six months of 2010, a new Afghan study says.

Afghanistan Rights Monitor says 1,074 civilians were killed between January and June – a slight increase compared with the same period in 2009.

However, the number of people killed in Nato air strikes in the same period has halved, the report says.

Changes to rules of engagement helped reduce that figure, the report says.

Former Nato commander Gen Stanley McChrystal issued instructions in 2009 severely limiting the circumstances in which troops could call in an air strike or fire into buildings.

The newly arrived coalition international forces commander, Gen David Petraeus, has vowed to carry on with the policy.

‘Deadly insurgency’

Violence in Afghanistan is now at its worst since the conflict began in 2001, the report says.

“The Afghan people have only witnessed and suffered an intensifying armed conflict over the past six months and insurgency has become more resilient, multi-structured and deadly,” it adds.

Violence has soared across Afghanistan in recent months, with 212 civilians killed during June alone, Afghanistan Rights Monitor says.

Most of the deaths documented by the report were caused by insurgents, the report notes, with the widespread use of roadside bombs particularly deadly, killing almost 300 civilians.

Suicide bombs were also a major cause of death, the organisation said.

It does acknowledge that Nato-led forces have been trying hard to reduce civilian casualties, partly in response to pressure from the Afghan government.

And the new counter-insurgency strategy introduced by Gen McChrystal does seem to have had some effect, the report says.

According to its data, 94 Afghans were killed in air strikes between January and June 2010 – compared to 207 for the previous year.

In all 210 civilians had died in the past six months as a result of Nato-led strikes, shootings and raids, the report said.

“Dozens of people, including women and children, were shot dead during violent and barbaric intrusions, raids into houses and other counter-insurgency operations by US-Nato forces,” the report’s authors say.

Whilst the deaths of foreign soldiers often make headlines, the widespread deaths of Afghan civilians receive much less attention.

The United Nations has also charted rising civilian deaths in Afghanistan – it says 2,400 people were killed in 2009, up from 2,118 in 2008.

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