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Afghanistan: UN urges greater civilian protection after bloodiest month

11 June 2011 – Last month was the most violent for civilians in Afghanistan in recent years as attacks by insurgents intensified, the United Nations mission in the country said today, reiterating its call for greater protection of civilians.

“Parties to the conflict must increase their efforts to protect civilians now,” said Georgette Gagnon, the Director of Human Rights in the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) in a statement. “More civilians were killed in May than in any other month since 2007 when UNAMA began documenting civilian casualties,” she added.

At least 368 civilians died in conflict in May with anti-government elements responsible for 301 or 82 per cent of the deaths, and pro-government forces blamed for 45 deaths or 12 per cent of the total. Nearly 600 civilians were injured.

Improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by anti-government elements continue to cause most the casualties. IED attacks were responsible for 119 deaths in May or 41 per cent of the total, and 274 injuries.

“We are very concerned that civilian suffering will increase even more over the summer fighting season which historically brings the highest numbers of civilian casualties,” said Ms. Gagnon.

Civilian casualties attributed to ground combat have been on the rise since the beginning of the Taliban''s spring offensive on 30 April. Pro-government forces are blamed for 45 civilian deaths or 12 per cent of the total, with ground combat responsible for half of the casualties.

The majority of the attacks were in areas where anti-government elements and pro-government forces expanded operations, particularly in the north and regions bordering Pakistan. Air strikes were blamed for 3 per cent of the total deaths in May, according to UNAMA.

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