Published on Friday, July 31, 2009 by Reuters
Afghan War Spreads to Residential Areas: UN Report
by Laura MacInnis
GENEVA - The Afghan battlefield is spreading into residential areas where more people are being killed by air strikes, car bombs and suicide attacks, according to a U.N. report published on Friday.
File photo shows a British soldier talking with Afghan children during a patrol on the outskirts of
The U.N. Assistance
Commenting on the report, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said it was critical that steps be taken to shield Afghan communities from fighting.
"All parties involved in this conflict should take all measures to protect civilians, and to ensure the independent investigation of all civilian casualties, as well as justice and remedies for the victims," the South African said.
Taliban fighters and their allies were named responsible for 59 percent of bystander deaths, caused mainly by roadside blasts, and Afghan government and international forces were also faulted for errant air strikes that claimed hundreds of lives.
"Both anti-government elements and pro-government forces are responsible for the increase in civilian casualties," the human rights report said, arguing that tactical changes in the war had put more innocent people in the cross-fire.
Insurgents, who previously targeted the Afghan military and NATO troops with frontal attacks and ambushes, are now employing "guerrilla-like measures" in residential zones "to deliberately blur the distinction between combatants and civilians."
This shift, it said, is "what appears to be an active policy aimed at drawing a military response to areas where there is a high likelihood that civilians will be killed or injured."
FURTHER CASUALTIES LIKELY
Afghan and international forces have launched more operations in areas where ordinary Afghans live, killing people and damaging homes, assets and infrastructure, the report said.
The United Nations warned that resistance to a
"Given the pattern of the conflict so far, further significant civilian casualties in the coming months are likely," the human rights report concluded.
The U.N. tolls are based on witness testimonies, military and local leader interviews, hospital visits, and photographic and film evidence as well as media and secondary-source reports.
The latest report said 200 civilians have been killed since the start of the year in 40 air strikes by pro-government forces. May was especially bloody, with 63 civilian deaths in one aerial bombardment and a total of 81 deaths over the month.
"While the number of deadly air strike incidents remains low overall, when they do occur they can claim a significant number of lives," the U.N. study found.
It also raised concerns about raids in which people died, and said "there have been reports of a number of joint Afghan and international military forces operations in which excessive use of force has allegedly resulted in civilian deaths."
But it said pro-government forces -- who until last year were responsible for the bulk of Afghan civilian deaths -- seemed to have clamped down on "force protection incidents" where civilians are killed after failing to follow instructions when nearing military convoys, sites or checkpoints.
© 2009 Reuters
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"The master class has always declared the wars; the subject class has always fought the battles. The master class has had all to gain and nothing to lose, while the subject class has had nothing to gain and everything to lose--especially their lives." Eugene Victor Debs