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Civilians Bear Brunt of Conflict in Afghanistan: ICRC

Reuters staff

GENEVA - The humanitarian situation in Afghanistan has worsened in the last year and civilians are bearing the brunt of suicide attacks and aerial bombing raids, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Tuesday.

"Civilians suffer horribly from mounting threats to their security, such as increasing numbers of roadside bombs and suicide attacks, and regular aerial bombing raids," said Pierre Kraehenbuehl, director of ICRC operations.0612 02

On Tuesday, U.S-led forces mistakenly killed seven policemen in an air strike in the east of the country after Afghan forces came under attack from the Taliban and asked for help, a provincial official said.

About 50,000 foreign troops led by the U.S. military and NATO are in Afghanistan, battling a resurgent Taliban and their al Qaeda allies.

There has been a steady deterioration of medical services in Afghanistan's remote areas, where important needs are unmet, Kraehenbuehl said: "The civilians most in need are also the most difficult to reach," he said in a statement.


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The neutral agency said that since 2006 the violence had significantly intensified in the south and east and was spreading to the north and west, bringing a "growing number of civilian casualties."

The agency said that it was stepping up its efforts to protect and assist the most vulnerable, in particular by helping medical facilities to "cope with the increasing number of war-wounded in the south and east."

Its officials are also visiting more and more people detained by the Afghan authorities or international forces in connection with the conflict -- some 2,424 over the past year -- to ensure that they are being treated humanely.

The Geneva-based agency said that 2007 marked the 20th year of its uninterrupted presence in Afghanistan, a "telling indication of the immense and unending suffering of the Afghan people over decades of successive conflicts."

Copyright © 2007 Reuters Limited.

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