Civilian deaths hit new high as West looks for Afghan exit

More civilians are dying in Afghanistan than at any time during the past decade, a new United Nations report says, as the war spreads to previously safe parts of the country and insurgents increase their use of suicide bombers, child soldiers and homemade bombs. Afghanistan's grim arithmetic for the first six months of the year includes 1,462 civilians killed, 80 per cent of them by insurgent groups, and another 2,144 wounded: a 15 per cent jump on the same period in 2010.

"The rising tide of violence and bloodshed in the first half of 2011 brought injury and death to Afghan civilians at levels without recorded precedent in the current armed conflict," the UN mission in Kabul said yesterday.

It added that there was every likelihood the true total is higher than reported, because the closure of one of its offices following a deadly attack had left it unable to collect some data.

The worrying data comes as coalition partners are all announcing major reductions in troop numbers and fixed dates on when they expect to have completely withdrawn from Afghanistan when responsibility for security will be taken on by the Afghan security forces. The preparedness of these domestic forces to take on the job of protecting the Afghan population has been questioned on many occasions.

Among the more harrowing examples of the worsening conflict – and increasingly brutal tactics – was the Taliban's increased use child soldiers, including as suicide bombers.

On 12 May a 12-year-old killed three civilians and injured 12 others in an attack in eastern Afghanistan. He was the youngest-recorded suicide bomber.

There were also increasing numbers of women suicide bombers, the report said, and in one instance, "insurgents instructed an eight-year-old girl to bring a package of explosive devices to a police vehicle. The insurgents remotely detonated the bomb, killing the girl."

The report singled out for particular censure the Taliban's "unlawful" use of homemade bombs, its assassination campaign against civilian officials, and its attacks on hospitals. It called pressure-plate activated improvised explosive devices (IEDs) – the Taliban's weapon of choice – "de facto landmines" that killed indiscriminately. Homemade bombs were responsible for 30 per cent of all civilian deaths.

Nato also came in for some criticism. The UN found that the number of civilians killed in air strikes "particularly by Apache helicopters" had shot up, especially in Afghanistan's east and south-east where Nato has not been able to meet an intensifying insurgency with as many ground troops as it has devoted to the southern flashpoints of Helmand and Kandahar.

Although the number of civilians killed in night raids is down, according to UN figures, "they remain one of the most despised tactics in the eyes of the Afghan population". That point was underlined after Afghan officials claimed Nato forces had killed six civilians in a raid hours earlier, although Nato insists they were insurgents. President Hamid Karzai ordered an investigation.

UN rights officials also argued that Nato plans to hand over control of parts of the country to Afghan security forces had provoked a wave of insurgent attacks designed to undermine the credibility and morale of Afghan forces.

The reality of the findings was driven home by a bombing in a mosque packed with mourners for the late Ahmed Wali Karzai, the President's brother, who was assassinated earlier this week. It left four dead including a child and a leading member of Kandahar's religious council, a cleric who had disparaged Taliban tactics for years. The bomber is thought to have smuggled explosives inside the mosque inside his turban.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Recruitment Genius: Production Operative

£13000 - £17000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Due to a period of sustained an...

Recruitment Genius: Digital Marketing Content Leader

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role requires a high level...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent