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Afghan civilian deaths jump 17%

THE number of Afghan civilians killed during violence caused by US-led occupation jumped nearly 17 per cent in the first half of this year.

“Ground engagements or ground fighting among parties to the conflict has now become the leading cause of civilian casualities,” said UN mission human rights unit director Georgette Gagnon today.

In all, 1,564 civilians were killed from January to June, compared with 1,342 in the first six months of 2013, the UN said. 

That included a 21 per cent jump in the death toll for children, with 295 killed so far this year compared with 243 in the same period the previous year.

The worrying trend is largely the result of Taliban and other insurgents pressing home attacks on Afghan security forces in the fight for control of key routes and other territory prior to the withdrawal of US combat troops by the end of 2014.

The UN revealed in its biannual report that clashes, rockets and mortar strikes killed more civilians than roadside bombs and suicide attacks.

This marks a change from the past when most civilian casualties were blamed on roadside bombs.

The shift is directly related to the closure and transfer to Afghan security forces of more than 86 bases belonging to the occupation forces.

“The fight is increasingly taken place in communities, in public places near playgrounds and near the homes of the ordinary Afghans, with death and injury particularly to women and children in a continued disturbing upward spiral,” said Ms Gagnon.

In line with their diminishing presence in Afghanistan, the number of civilians killed by intervention forces’ air strikes dropped to 25 compared with 49 in the first half of 2013, the UN report said.

Six people, including two police officers, were killed early yesterday during an attack against the governor’s compound in Kandahar when 11 insurgents wearing bomb vests tried to take over the small complex.

One attacker blew up his car in an attempt to breach the compound’s gates, killing four civilian bystanders, before others opened fire on police. 

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