Monday, June 29, 2009

Afghanistan: 800 civilians killed from Jan to May - and rising

Civilian deaths resulting from armed hostilities between insurgents, the US military, the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan and government forces have increased by 24 percent so far this year compared to the same period in 2008, according to a report by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon.

In May alone, 261 non-combatants lost their lives in conflict in Afghanistan, John Holmes, UN Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator, told members of the Security Council at a meeting on 26 June.

One of the worst incidents was in May when dozens of civilians, among them at least 65 women and children, were killed when US forces bombed a village in the Bala Bulok district of Farah Province, southwestern Afghanistan, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said on 26 May.

“UNAMA [the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan] recorded 800 civilian casualties between January and May 2009, mostly in the south, southeast and eastern regions of the country,” states the UN Secretary-General’s report, The Situation in Afghanistan and its Implication for International Peace and Security, which was released on 23 June.

At least 55 percent of the recorded deaths were attributed to insurgents, 33 percent were caused by international and Afghan forces and 12 percent could not be attributed to any of the warring parties, the report said.

The UN SG’s report blamed the Taliban for most of the civilian casualties and welcomed measures adopted by international forces to minimize the impact of war on non-combatants.

Armed conflict has also displaced tens of thousands of people, leaving most in need of protection and assistance, aid agencies say.

Unprecedented rise

Since the fall of Taliban regime in 2001, insecurity has gradually plagued parts of the country, particularly the south.

In May 2009, security deteriorated to levels not seen since 2001, with over 1,000 recorded violent incidents, the UN report said.

While insurgency-related violence has been mostly concentrated in the volatile south and east, it has also expanded to central and northern areas of the country. “The next period will likely experience an increase in the level of violence compared with the same period last year, including complex suicide attacks, intimidation and assassinations carried out by insurgents,” said the report.

In addition to adversely impacting the lives of civilians, the intensifying insecurity has posed serious threats to aid workers and has increasingly inhibited humanitarian access to large swathes of the country.

Over 60 security incidents involving NGOs were recorded from 1 January to 15 June 2009 by the Afghanistan NGOs Safety Office. Tens of aid workers were killed or kidnapped last year.

Owing to a surge of US forces over the past few months and the expansion of newly trained Afghan forces, security has seen improvement in Kabul, Herat, Logar and Wardak provinces, states the UN report.

However, aid workers are concerned that violence will peak in the coming months as the country is set to hold presidential and provincial council elections in August. Insurgents have reportedly threatened to disrupt the elections process with more suicide attacks and roadside explosions.

Disclaimer:This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
Published by Mike Hitchen, Mike Hitchen Consulting
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