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AFGHANISTAN: Over 155 civilians killed in suicide attacks, fighting in September

KABUL, 12 October 2007 (IRIN) - Over 155 Afghan civilians died in ground military operations, aerial strikes and suicide attacks by Taliban insurgents, US, NATO and Afghan government forces in September alone, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) has told IRIN.

"At least 80 civilians lost their lives in suicide attacks and over 75 others were killed in military operations and aerial strikes in September," said Farid Hamidi, an AIHRC official.

The AIHRC is yet to verify the gender, age and other details of the civilian victims.

Dozens of civilians are also feared wounded and many others have been displaced as a result of insurgency-related violence, the rights watchdog said.

Suicide attacks were all but unknown in Afghanistan until 2002 but have soared in the last two years. Since January 2007, over 103 suicide attacks have been recorded compared to 100 in the whole of 2006, the UN reported in September.

Noncombatants make up to 80 percent of suicide attack victims, found the UN study Suicide Attacks in Afghanistan (2001-2007).

"Unfortunately, all warring parties have continuously disregarded our repeated calls that all measures must be implemented to avoid harm to civilians during armed hostilities," the AIHRC's Hamidi said.

Southern and southwestern parts of Afghanistan are widely considered to be hotbeds of insurgency. However, two-thirds of civilian casualties in September resulting from military operations, aerial strikes and suicide attacks were reported in the eastern Afghan provinces of Nangarhar, Kunar and Laghman, AIHRC preliminary findings show.

More violence than in 2006

Apart from rising civilian casualties, around 250 alleged Taliban fighters and at least 30 Afghan and international soldiers reportedly died in armed conflict in September.

On 21 September the UN Secretary-General reported to the Security Council that insurgency-and-terrorism related violence in Afghanistan had seen an increase of at least 20 percent compared to 2006.

"An average of 548 incidents per month were recorded in 2007, compared to an average of 425 per month in 2006," said the report, entitled The Situation in Afghanistan and its Implications for International Peace and Security.

In one of the deadliest incidents, on 29 September, a suicide bomber blew himself up inside a bus packed with Afghan army officers, killing 30 people, including six civilians, the Afghanistan Ministry of Defence said.

Furthermore, in separate military operations in Helmand and Uruzgan provinces on 25-26 September, US and Afghan forces killed over 160 Taliban insurgents, the US military stated in two press releases.

The Associated Press news agency said that by September this year the tally of war-related deaths had surpassed 5,000, compared to a total of 4,019 deaths in the whole of 2006.

"Condolence" payments

Suicide attacks killed more than 80 civilians only in Afghanistan, Sepetember 2007.Suicide attacks killed more than 80 civilians only in Afghanistan, Sepetember 2007.Only a few of the over 30 nations that have contributed troops to the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Afghanistan provide modest ad hoc "condolence" payments to the families of civilians who die in their military operations, a spokesman for ISAF said.

In May 2007 the AIHRC found that US soldiers used "indiscriminate shooting and excessive force" during an incident on 4 March in Nangarhar Province in which at least 11 civilians were reportedly killed.

The rights watchdog said the US army formally apologised to the affected local people and paid a "condolence" sum of US$2,000 to each directly affected family.

The AIHRC has, however, repeatedly demanded the establishment of a regular and fair "compensatory" mechanism which would provide financial assistance to families affected in armed conflicts.

"There must be a transparent system of payments to the families of every civilian victim of armed conflict, in conformity with Afghanistan's domestic laws," Hamidi maintained.

According to Afghanistan's current penal code, a person who mistakenly kills an individual should pay Islamic compensation (`Diyat') equivalent to the price of 40 camels to the affected family - roughly $25,000.



Copyright © IRIN 2007
This material comes to you via IRIN, the humanitarian news and analysis service of the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. The opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect those of the United Nations or its Member States.
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