Afghan civilian toll up 20 percent-U.N. report

KABUL Tue Dec 21, 2010 7:40pm IST

An Afghan policeman keeps watch at the site of a blast in Herat August 8, 2010.  REUTERS/Mohammad Shoib/Files

An Afghan policeman keeps watch at the site of a blast in Herat August 8, 2010.

Credit: Reuters/Mohammad Shoib/Files

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KABUL (Reuters) - Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose by 20 percent in the first 10 months of this year compared with 2009, the United Nations said, with more than three-quarters killed or wounded as a result of insurgent attacks.

In a quarterly report on Afghanistan this month, the United Nations said there were 6,215 civilian casualties from conflict-related incidents, including 2,412 deaths and 3,803 injuries, between January and the end of October this year.

The Taliban and other insurgents, described in the report as "anti-government elements", or AGEs, were responsible for 76 percent of the deaths or injuries suffered by civilians, up a quarter on the same period for last year.

"Civilians continued to bear the brunt of intensified armed conflict as civilian casualties, including deaths and injuries, increased by 20 percent in the first 10 months of 2010," U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in the report.

Insurgent suicide attacks and homemade bombs caused 998 deaths -- 55 percent of the total attributed to AGEs -- and wounded 2,062 civilians -- 70 percent of the total attributed to AGEs, the report found.

Deaths and injuries caused by "pro-government forces", which includes U.S. and NATO troops as well as Afghan army and police, accounted for 12 percent of all civilian casualties, an 18 percent drop on the same period last year, the report said.

Of the 742 civilian casualties attributed to pro-government forces, air strikes caused the largest number, including 162 deaths and 120 injuries, it said.

Civilian casualties caused by U.S. and other foreign forces have long been a source of friction between the Afghan government and its Western backers and military commander have sought to tighten the rules for calling in air strikes.

A report last month by around 30 aid groups said while civilian casualties caused by foreign and Afghan forces had decreased over the past two years -- mainly due to a fall in air strikes -- an increase in the use of air power in recent months risked reversing those gains.

U.S. forces had dropped 2,100 bombs or missiles from June through September, almost 50 percent more than the same period last year, that report said.

Civilian deaths caused by foreign and Afghan troops in October had also increased by 11 percent on the same month last year, it said, citing foreign military figures.

The U.N. report also said there had been a 66 percent increase in the number of security incidents since its last report on Sept. 14, compared to the same period for 2009. Suicide attacks, averaged three a week during the period, it said.

(Editing by Alex Richardson)

(For more Reuters coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan, see: here)

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