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Afghan civilian deaths drop 21 percent: UN

31 May, 2012

KABUL: The number of civilians killed in the Afghan war in the first four months of this year dropped by 21 percent over the same period in 2011, the United Nations (UN) said on Wednesday.

A total of 579 civilians died and 1,219 were wounded, with Taliban-led insurgents responsible for the vast majority of the deaths, Jan Kubis, the UN special representative for Afghanistan, told a news conference.

Kubis said that 79 percent casualties were caused by anti-government forces and nine percent by pro-government forces, including NATO's International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) while the rest were not attributed to any party. "The prevention of civilian casualties is among the top priorities of UNAMA," Kubis said, referring to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan. "We give proposals addressed to all the parties, we urge them to take measures, and we sometimes see results and I'm very happy to see results."

For the past five years the number of civilians killed in the war had risen steadily, reaching a record of 3,021 in 2011.

That year, insurgents caused 77 percent of the deaths while pro-government forces were responsible for killing 410 civilians - 14 percent of the total, the UN said in its annual report. The record loss of life was blamed mainly on changes in the insurgents' tactics, which saw an increased use of improvised bombs and deadlier suicide attacks.

But civilian deaths in NATO air strikes have drawn fierce criticism from Afghan President Hamid Karzai, who argues that they turn ordinary Afghans against his Western-backed government.

Karzai summoned ISAF commander General John Allen and US Ambassador Ryan Crocker to the presidential palace earlier this month after a number of civilians were killed in NATO air strikes.

NATO and US forces in Afghanistan admitted in a joint statement after the meeting that civilians had died in two separate strikes.

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