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UN finds decrease in Afghan civilian deaths

2,754 civilians killed in 2012 mark first drop in six years, but targeted killings of women in government raise alarms.
Last Modified: 19 Feb 2013 12:11
Civilian casualties among perceived government supporters rose 108 percent in 2012 to 1,077 [EPA]

The United Nations mission in Afghanistan has recorded a 12 percent drop in civilian deaths in Afghanistan, the first such decrease in six years.

The figures for 2012, released on Tuesday, did show an incremental increase in civilian injuries compared to the previous year.

More than 578 children were killed or wounded in  first six months of 2012

In 2012, the mission recorded 7,559 civilian casualties - 2,754 of them deaths and the rest injuries. In 2011, 3,131 civilians were killed.

Over the past six years, 14,728 Afghan civilians have lost their lives in the ongoing conflict.

"While the overall incidence of civilian casualties decreased in 2012, anti-government elements increasingly targeted civilians throughout the country and carried out attacks without regard for human life," it said.

The drop was attributed to fewer casualties from on-the-ground engagements, a decline in suicide attacks and a reduced number of aerial operations.

However, the re-emergence of armed groups in the north and northeast of the country has posed new threats to civilians, the report indicated. In particular, the number of Afghan women and girls killed and injured in
the conflict increased by 20 percent in 2012.

Jans Kubis, the special representative for Afghanistan from the UN secretary-general, said the decrease was welcome, but "the human cost of the conflict remains unacceptable". Kubis said the "indiscriminate and unlawful" use of improvised explosive devices by armed groups remained the biggest killer of civilians.

Targeted killings

Though the toll for civilians saw a drop, targeted attacks on Afghan government officials soared by 700 percent. Targeted killings of women in government service were "particularly disturbing", the annual report said.

The report referred to the deaths of the head and deputy head of the Laghman department of women's affairs in July and December 2012, respectively, as evidence of the increased dangers for female officials.

Civilian casualties among perceived government supporters, including government employees, religious leaders, tribal elders and people involved in peace efforts rose by 108 percent to 1,077.

Overall, armed fighters were responsible for 81 percent of civilian casualties,  while eight percent were caused by Afghan and NATO forces, the report said.

The other 11 percent could not be attributed to either party.

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