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Deadliest Year for Afghan Civilians

The number of civilians killed in war-related violence in Afghanistan touched 2,412 last year, the highest number since the 2001 US-led invasion, the UN has said.

A wounded woman (left) receives treatment at a hospital in Herat, Afghanistan. The number of civilians killed in the country's conflict jumped last year to 2,412, making 2009 the deadliest year for ordinary civilians since the US-led invasion, the United Nations has said. (AFP/File/Reza Shirmohammadi) A report by the UN mission for Afghanistan pointed to the "intensification and spread of the armed conflict" in what was also the deadliest year for foreign forces, with 520 troops killed.

It said 70 per cent of civilian deaths were caused by Taliban attacks, while 25 per cent were killed by pro-government and foreign forces - a 28 per cent reduction in deaths caused by Western forces since 2008.

The remaining 135 civilians were killed in violence not attributable to the conflicting parties, the UN said in its report.

'Excessive use of force'

The UN found most deaths attributed to pro-government forces were killed in air raids as well as search and seizure operations.

"These often involved excessive use of force, destruction to property and cultural insensitivity, particularly towards women," it said.

But it said that a change in Nato command structure had helped reduce the number of non-combatant deaths by coalition troops.

US General Stanley McChrystal, the commander of the foreign forces in Afghanistan, has made minimising civilian deaths and injuries a central tenet of his counter-insurgency strategy, ordering reduced air attacks as one way of achieving this objective.

The UN report said the change in Nato forces' command structure, "specific steps to minimise civilian casualties" and "a new tactical directive" by the force contributed to the reduction in non-combatant deaths.

Civilian casualties are a source of tension between the Afghan government of Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, and the international forces fighting the insurgency.

Recent incidents, such as the deaths of 10 civilians including eight teenagers in eastern Kunar province in an authorised but non-military US operation, have seen Afghans take to the streets to protest against the presence of foreign troops.

 Source: Agencies

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