Afghan civilian casualties rose in 2nd half of 2012

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Of those, 698 were killed in targeted attacks, often against government employees. That was up from 512 in 2011.

The number blamed on U.S. and allied forces, meanwhile, decreased by 46 percent, with 316 killed and 271 wounded in 2012. Most of those were killed in U.S. and NATO airstrikes, although that number, too, dropped by nearly half last year to 126.

The report came a day after President Hamid Karzai banned government forces from requesting foreign air support during operations in residential areas.

Anger is high over an airstrike last week in northeastern Kunar province that killed five children, four women and one man along with four insurgents. Mr. Karzai said it was requested by the national intelligence service.

The top U.N. envoy in Afghanistan, Jan Kubis, welcomed the decline in casualties but warned militants who target civilians that they will face justice.

“This is a war crime, and people will be held responsible,” he told reporters in Kabul.

Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi also said the decrease was a positive sign and pledged to do everything possible to stop the insurgents from attacking civilians.

“They’re still using suicide bombers, they still use IEDs (roadside bombs) in the very populated areas, and they still use civilians as a shield in the villages,” Mr. Sediqi said. “The important thing is that civilian casualties should be decreased to zero.”

Despite the decline, airstrikes remained the cause of most civilian deaths and injuries by the international military forces, and 51 of those killed were children, the report said.

The death of civilians during military operations, particularly in airstrikes, has been among a major source of acrimony between Mr. Karzai’s government and foreign forces.

The U.S.-led military coalition said last June that it would use airstrikes only as a self-defense weapon of last resort for troops and would avoid hitting structures that could house civilians.

That announcement followed a bombardment that killed 18 civilians celebrating a wedding in eastern Logar province, which drew an apology from the American commander.

• Associated Press writers Heidi Vogt and Amir Shah contributed to this article.

 

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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