Afghan civilian deaths rise 15%
Kabul: The number of civilians killed in the Afghan war in the first half of 2011 rose 15 percent, the United Nations said on Thursday, putting the year on track to be the deadliest in a decade.
The disturbing rise in deaths came after the United States sent thousands of extra troops into Afghanistan and said levels of violence in the 2011 fighting season would be an indication of the extent to which it had worked.
The annual mid-year report by the UN mission in the country said insurgents accounted for 80 percent of all deaths and that NATO troops were responsible for 14 percent of killings, with half of all casualties caused by bomb attacks.
"As the conflict intensified in the traditional fighting areas of the south and southeast and moved to districts in the west and north, civilians experienced a downward spiral in protection," the UN mission said.
The latest figures come two days after the shock assassination of President Hamid Karzai`s younger half-brother in his home in the southern city of Kandahar, one of the war`s most bitter battlegrounds.
The United Nations "documented 1,462 civilian deaths in the first six months of 2011, an increase of 15 percent over the same period in 2010."
According to the world body, the deadliest year on record in the current Afghan conflict, which began when US-led troops in 2001 invaded to bring down the Taliban regime, was in 2010 with the deaths of 2,777 civilians.
In the first half of 2010, the United Nations reported 1,271 deaths.
It attributed the rise to a wide range of increased violence, including a greater use of improvised bombs, suicide attacks and targeted killings, as well as more ground fighting and a rise in casualties from NATO air strikes.
Civilian deaths from improvised explosives devices (IEDs) increased 17 percent from the same period in 2010, making IEDs the single largest killer of non-combatants in the first half of 2011.
The United Nations said the number of targeted killings of Afghan security and government personnel across the country continued to rise so far this year, with 190 killings compared to 181 in the same period in 2010.
The Taliban were responsible for the vast majority of civilian casualties, and the death toll caused by the insurgency was up 28 percent on last year.
NATO had reduced the number of deaths it was responsible for by nine percent, and most were blamed on air strikes, mostly by Apache helicopters.
Controversial night raids that US-led forces mounted to take out insurgent leaders accounted for two percent of civilian deaths, a slight decrease on the first half of 2010.
"However, resentment regarding these raids grew among the Afghan population," the report said.
"Violent demonstrations sometimes followed night raids and led to deaths and injuries of civilians..." it said.
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