Jason Straziuso / Globe and Mail – 2008-09-17 22:41:00
KABUL (September 16, 2008)— The number of Afghan civilians killed in insurgent attacks and air strikes by foreign troops has risen 40 percent in the past year, and more died in August than in any month since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban, the UN said Tuesday.
Exactly 800 of the 1,445 Afghan deaths between January and the end of August – or 55 per cent – were caused by Taliban and other insurgents, the United Nations said. During the same eight-month period in 2007, 1,040 civilians died.
U.S. or NATO air strikes caused 395 deaths — two-thirds of the total casualties inflicted by pro-government forces, the UN said.
Some 330 civilians died in August alone, including about 92 killed in a U.S.-led raid on the village of Azizabad, the UN said. The Afghan government and UN have blamed the United States for killing scores of civilians in that operation.
“This is the highest number of civilian deaths to occur in a single month since the end of major hostilities and the ousting of the Taliban regime at the end of 2001,” UN human-rights chief Navi Pillay said in a statement.
“There is substantial evidence indicating that the Taliban are carrying out a systematic campaign of intimidation and violence aimed at Afghan civilians they believe to be supportive of the government, the international community, and military forces,” Ms. Pillay said.
President Hamid Karzai for years has pleaded with U.S. and NATO forces to reduce the number of civilians killed in their operations. After the bombing in Azizabad, the government announced it would review its “status of force” agreement with the United States and NATO and review whether to demand an end to air strikes and operations in Afghan villages.
The Interior Ministry, meanwhile, said militants have been responsible for 720 police deaths in the last six months, compared with about 925 in all of 2007.
Afghanistan’s 82,000 police officers have less training and less firepower than the Afghan army, making them a favourite target for militants.
The police also travel in small groups through some of Afghanistan’s most dangerous territory.
More than 4,200 people – mostly militants – have died in insurgency-related violence this year, according to an Associated Press tally of figures from Afghan and Western officials.
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