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Civilian deaths and injuries in the ongoing Afghan war have decreased for the first time in six years, the United Nations said in a report on Tuesday.
There was a 12 percent drop in civilian deaths in 2012, said the annual Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict report, prepared by the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan.
At least 2 754 Afghan civilians were killed last year. In 2011, the number of civilian deaths was 3 131.
Adding injuries to deaths, the new UN report also recorded a 4 percent decrease in the total 7 559 civilian casualties in 2012.
“The decrease in civilian casualties ... is very much welcome,” said Jan Kubis, UN special representative for the secretary general in Afghanistan, in a statement. “Yet, the human cost of the conflict remains unacceptable.”
However, targeted killings and injuries of government employees, tribal elders, and local leaders increased by a staggering 700-per-cent in 2012 compared to 2011, the UN report said.
At least 107 Afghan civilian government workers were killed and 148 others were injured in 2012. In 2011, according to the UN, only 23 officials were killed and 11 injured in such target attacks.
“The increase reflects a continuing shift in tactics of insurgents to deliberately target civilians perceived to support the government or international military forces,” the report said.
It also blamed the Taliban insurgents for 6 131 civilian casualties, or 81 percent of the total deaths and injures, a 9 percent increase compared to 2011.
At least 868 Afghan civilians were killed in 2012 by roadside bombs, often used by the Taliban insurgents to target Afghan and NATO troops, according to the UN.
Civilian casualties caused by NATO and Afghan security forces decreased by 46 percent to 587 in 2012, compared to 2011, according to the UN.
At least 316 civilians were killed by the Afghan government and NATO forces, according to the UN, of which at least 126 were killed in aerial operations by the NATO-led international forces.
Fifty-one of those killed in aerial operations were children, the UN said.
The civilian casualties by the NATO forces, especially due to airstrikes, has remained a thorny issue between the Afghan president and the international military officials.
Late Monday, President Hamid Karzai issued a decree banning the Afghan security forces from asking the international troops for “air support during operations in the residential areas.”
For the past 11 years, the Taliban have been fighting Afghan and NATO forces. At least 14 728 Afghan civilians have lost their lives in the fighting during the past six years, the UN said.
“While fewer Afghan civilians were killed in the armed conflict in 2012, conflict-related violence continued to seriously threaten the lives and well-being of thousands of Afghan children, women and men.” said Georgette Gagnon, director of human rights for UNAMA, in a statement.
“This situation demands even greater commitment and redoubled efforts to protect Afghan civilians in 2013 and beyond.” - Sapa-dpa