Afghan civilian death toll falls nearly half, says UN

Afghan civilian death toll falls nearly half, says UN

KABUL - The Associated Press
Afghan civilian death toll falls nearly half, says UN

Afghan shoppers throng the Mandave main market in downtown Kabul. Attacks on Afghan government workers soared by 700 percent last year. AFP Photo

The number of Afghan civilians killed in U.S. and NATO airstrikes dropped by nearly half last year to 126, the U.N. said Feb. 19. The report came a day after President Hamid Karzai banned government forces from requesting foreign air support during operations in residential areas.

The overall civilian death toll in 2012 also declined some 12 percent to 2,754, compared with 3,131 the previous year, according to an annual report by the United Nations Mission to Afghanistan that tracks statistics in the 11-year-old war. But while it was the first reduction in casualties in six years, the U.N. expressed concern about a spike in targeted killings and human rights abuses by armed groups, a worrisome trend as U.S. and other foreign troops prepare to withdraw combat troops by the end of 2014.

It also said the number of Afghan women and girls killed and injured in the conflict increased by 20 percent in 2012.

The report was released as 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. Angry that the strike was requested by his national intelligence service, Karzai ordered Feb. 18 government troops to stop asking for foreign air support in residential areas.

The Taliban and other insurgents increasingly targeted civilians throughout the country and were responsible for 81 percent of the civilian casualties last year, the U.N. said. The report said that so-called anti-government elements killed 2,179 civilians and wounded 3,952, a 9 percent increase in casualties from 2011.

By contrast, the number blamed on U.S. and allied forces decreased by 46 percent, with 316 killed and 271 wounded in 2012.