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Afghan Civilian Deaths Rose by 15% in 2010 to 2,777, UN Says

Afghan Civilian Deaths Rose by 15% in 2010 to 2,777, UN Says

The number of civilians killed in the conflict in Afghanistan increased 15 percent in 2010, to 2,777, even as fatalities linked to U.S. and allied military forces decreased 26 percent, the United Nations said.

A report prepared by the UN, in cooperation with the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said 440 civilians were killed in actions by pro-government forces. There were 171 killed in allied air attacks, down 52 percent from 2009 levels.

“The overall rise in civilian deaths by anti-government elements can be attributed to the increased use of improvised explosive devices and targeted assassinations by anti-government forces and intensified military operations, particularly in southern Afghanistan,” the report said.

The report follows the U.S. military’s apology on March 1 for American helicopter strikes that killed nine boys cutting firewood on a forested mountainside, after they were mistaken for Taliban. Hundreds of Afghans marched in Kabul on March 6 to protest civilian deaths.

The U.S. has about 97,000 troops in Afghanistan fighting alongside almost 50,000 soldiers from 47 other nations. The campaign has focused primarily on ousting the Taliban from the most populous areas, including the southern provinces of Kandahar and Helmand.

A total of 8,832 civilians suffered war-related deaths over the past four years, a period in which the total grew each year, according to the 85-page report, which was released today.

‘Human Impact’

“The worsening human impact of the conflict reinforces the need for parties to the conflict to do more to protect Afghan civilians,” the report said. The UN and the Afghan Human Rights Commission urged forces on both sides of the conflict to “strengthen civilian protection and fully comply with their legal obligations to minimize civilian casualties.”

Suicide attacks and IEDs caused the most deaths, 1,141, as fatalities linked to anti-government forces amounted to 75 percent of the total, or 2,080. The report said the “most alarming” trend in 2010 was the 462 civilians assassinated by anti-government forces, a 105 percent increase over 2009. Half occurred in Helmand and Kandahar.

The report said that while efforts by U.S., Afghan and allied military forces to reduce civilian casualties were “welcome,” concern remains about “full and consistent implementation” of procedures to minimize the number and “lack of transparency or investigations and accountability for civilians causalities.”