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UN Official: Civilian Deaths in Afghanistan Up 60 Percent This Year

By VOA News
29 June 2008

A top United Nations official says the number of civilian deaths in Afghanistan has increased by more than 60 percent so far this year.

U.N. humanitarian affairs chief John Holmes said Sunday nearly 700 Afghan civilians have been killed in fighting between insurgents and foreign troops in 2008, compared to 430 civilians over the same period in 2007.

Holmes said the majority of civilian casualties were caused by insurgents, who he said appear to have no regard for human life. He also said the proportion of civilian casualties caused by government or foreign troops has decreased.

Civilian casualties are a sensitive issue in Afghanistan, with the country's leaders concerned that such incidents could increase support for Taliban insurgents.

President Hamid Karzai has repeatedly urged international forces to use maximum caution to prevent or at least avoid civilian casualties.

In another development, a British soldier from the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force was killed in a mine blast in southern Helmand province.

A military statement says the incident took place late Saturday in Lashkar Gah, the capital of the troubled province.

Afghan, NATO and U.S. troops have been fighting Taliban and other rebel groups in southern and eastern parts of the country since late 2001, when a U.S.-led invasion removed the Taliban from power.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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