Afghan civilian death toll hits 'record high'

UN mission in Afghanistan says 2011 was fifth straight year that number of dead has risen, with 3,021 civilians killed.

    Jan Kubis, the UN special representative in Afghanistan, said civilians have paid the highest price of the war [Reuters]

    More than 3,000 civilians were killed in Afghanistan during 2011, the deadliest year on record for residents of the war-torn country, according to a UN report.

    A total of 3,021 civilians died last year, up eight per cent from 2,790, the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said on Saturday in its annual report. The toll marked the fifth year in a row that the number of civilian deaths had increased.

    Roadside bombs and increasingly deadly suicide attacks targeting civilians killed more people than any other type of attack, it said.

    "Afghan children, women and men continue to be killed in this war in ever-increasing numbers," Jan Kubis, the UN special representative to Afghanistan, said on Saturday.

    "For much too long Afghan civilians have paid the highest price of war. Parties to the conflict must greatly increase their efforts to protect civilians to prevent yet another increase in civilian deaths and injuries in 2012."

    Single largest killer

    In a statement accompanying the report, UNAMA said "the tactics of choice of anti-government elements subjected Afghan civilians to death and injury with increasingly lethal results in 2011".

    "Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) were the single largest killer of Afghan children, women and men in 2011," it added.

    Bombs, including roadside mines detonated by people stepping on them or vehicles driving over them, accounted for 967 deaths, UNAMA said, the biggest single killer of civilians. 

    Al Jazeera's Jennifer Glasse, reporting from Kabul, the Afghan capital, said the UN attributes 77 per cent of the civilian casualties to what it calls "anti-government forces".

    "It says the big problems there are improvised explosive devices that are set off by vehicles or people stepping on pressure plates," she said.

    "Also suicide bombings in very crowded places - [those] are the main attributes for the jump in the number of civilian deaths."

    NATO air attacks

    The report said forces fighting the government of Afghan President Hamid Karzai and its allies in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) killed 2,332 civilians in 2011, 14 per cent more than in 2010.

    Security forces battling anti-government fighters killed 410 civilians, down four per cent from the previous year, it said.

    Most deaths attributed to NATO forces were a result of attacks from the air.

    The UN mission urged the 130,000-strong NATO force to review its tactics aimed at preventing civilian loss of life in all military operations - "in particular aerial attacks".

    It also called for stronger efforts to prevent civilian casualties in the night raids, which have been widely condemned, including by Karzai.

    A total of 11,864 civilians have died in the conflict in Afghanistan since 2007, the report said.

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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