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Civilian casualties from anti-insurgency conflict mount

[Afghanistan] A victim of Monday's anti-Taliban air strikes in Oruzgan. [Date picture taken: 07/14/2006]
(Sultan Massoodi/IRIN)

Local people and rights groups in southern Afghanistan are increasingly concerned about what they say is an escalation in civilian deaths and injuries resulting from the growing insurgency in the region.

Lying in bed in Kandahar’s main hospital, 35-year-old Mohammad Jailani whose face, chest and legs are covered by white bandages, is surrounded by his relatives.

“Death is much better for me than living like this… all of my body is wounded by bomb fragments,” said Jailani. He lives in the village of Kakrak, some 12 km north of Tarin Kowt, provincial capital of the southern province of Oruzgan province. He said his village was bombed by US-led coalition warplanes on Monday night.

“There was continued bombing and attacks on our village from midnight until the morning,” he explained.

A parliamentarian from Oruzgan said there had been extensive loss of life during the air strikes.

“More than 60 innocent civilians including women and children were killed and another 35 to 40 were injured in Kakrak, Dejoez, and Perosha villages during the US-led coalition air strikes,” Abdul Khaliq Mujahid, said.

Villagers at the hospital tending injured family confirmed that Taliban fighters had been in their communities, but had fled during the air strikes.

Oruzgan, the home province of Taliban fugitive leader Mullah Omar, has seen deadly battles recently between Taliban fighters and US-led forces. US officials said earlier in the week that coalition air strikes on 10 July killed 40 suspected Taliban fighters at villages near the provincial capital of Tarin Kowt, a figure disputed by survivors.

“Just four or five Taliban are known to have been killed, but most of them fled unhurt from the scene,” a resident of Kakrak village told IRIN, requesting anonymity.

According to the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), at least 600 of the 1,100 deaths in southern Afghanistan this year have been civilians killed by insurgents or coalition attacks.

Ahmad Nader Nadery, a spokesman for the AIHRC, said that his organisation’s regional office in Kandahar had received several complaints from local people about civilian casualties during the coalition air strikes.

“It is a matter of great concern to us, we have been asking the coalition forces to take all necessary measures to prevent civilian deaths during military operations,” Nadery said from the capital, Kabul.

Post-conflict Afghanistan has seen an upsurge in Taliban-led violence this year with regular bombings, shootings and suicide attacks. According to officials from the Afghan Defence Ministry, more than 200 militants have been killed since the largest anti-Taliban operation (Operation Mountain Thrust) - involving some 10,000 soldiers from Afghan, British, Canadian and US forces - was launched in mid-May to flush out increasingly bold insurgents.

Abdul Quadar Norzai, regional head of AIHRC in Kandahar, said that 22 civilians had been killed when the village of Ghachi Zari in the Kajaki district of the southern Helmand province, was bombed by coalition aircraft this week.

“According to our information we collected from the residents some 22 civilians were killed in two separate houses in Ghachi Zari village during coalition air strikes,” Norzai explained.

Norzai said that the ongoing coalition military operation in the Sangin district of Helmand had forced hundreds of families to left their houses and moved to other areas.

Meanwhile, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has ordered a probe into the Oruzgan bombing and alleged civilian casualties.

This article was produced by IRIN News while it was part of the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs. Please send queries on copyright or liability to the UN. For more information: https://shop.un.org/rights-permissions

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