Targeted civilian killings spiral in Afghan war: UN
* Report says civilian deaths up by 15 percent, abductions rose by 83 percent in 2010
* World body says talked to Taliban to reduce casualties
KABUL: Targeted killings of civilians in Afghanistan doubled last year, the United Nations said on Wednesday, as an expanding insurgency strikes at Western efforts to build up the Afghan government and security forces.
In an annual report, the UN said 2010 marked the most lethal year for non-combatants in the nearly decade-old war, with a 15 percent increase in the number of civilians killed to 2,777 - continuing a steady rise over the past four years. Insurgents were responsible for 75 percent of those deaths.
UN Assistant Secretary General for Human Rights, Ivan Simonovic, said the UN rights officials had been ‘in communication with the Taliban’, offering guidance to reduce civilian casualties. UN officials declined to elaborate on the contacts.
Abductions rose 83 percent, and violence continued to spread from the south to the north, east and west, the report said. Civilian deaths in the north, in particular, rose 76 percent. But the most ‘alarming’ trend, it said, was a 105 percent increase in the targeted killing of government officials, aid workers and civilians perceived to be supportive of the Afghan government or NATO-led foreign forces.
The tactic threatens to undermine further the handover of responsibility for security to the Afghan government, police and army starting this year, as Washington and its NATO allies seek to draw down their combined 150,000-strong force.
Of 462 assassinations in 2010, half occurred in Taliban strongholds in the south, where the US says it has made most gains from a 30,000-strong troop surge aimed at turning the tide of the war. In many parts of Afghanistan, local governors live behind sandbags on US military outposts and government officials rarely travel to the areas they are supposed to run. “People are afraid to go and vote, people are afraid of being elected, people are afraid of actually participating in civilian society,” UN envoy to Afghanistan Staffan de Mistura told a news conference.
The report said civilian assassinations were up 588 percent and 248 percent in Helmand and Kandahar provinces respectively, the main strongholds of the Taliban and the focus of a US troop surge. The report noted a 26 percent decline in the number of civilian deaths caused by coalition and Afghan forces. Yet the killing of civilians in NATO operations re-emerged last week as a major source of friction between Kabul and its Western backers after NATO helicopters gunned down nine Afghan boys.
Casualties among women rose 6 percent in 2010, and among children by 21 percent, while ‘the spread and intensity of the conflict meant that more women and children had even less access to essential services such as healthcare and education’.
Suicide attacks and homemade bombs claimed most lives. Of the 440 deaths attributed to NATO and Afghan forces, 171 were caused by aerial attacks. reuters