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Some 1,000 civilians killed since January - NGO body

Afghan and US military officials say local people in Garmsir District are happy with their presence in their area.
(Alex Guerra/US military)

Up to 1,000 civilians are among the 2,500 killed in armed conflict so far in 2008, a network of 100 national and international non-governmental organisations (NGOs) said.

The NGO network (Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief – ACBAR) said in a statement: "There has been a surge in the number of civilian casualties caused by all sides [in the conflict], a spread of insecurity to previously stable areas, and increasing attacks on aid agencies and their staff."

Armed clashes and conflict-related violence have increased by about 50 percent in 2008 compared to last year, aid agencies warned.

"The number of insurgent attacks for each of the months of May (463), June (569) and July is greater than the number of such attacks in any other months since the end of major hostilities following the international intervention in 2001," the NGO statement said.

July was reportedly the worst month for Afghan civilians in the past six years, with 260 civilian casualties recorded, the statement added.

The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) and the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) attributed two-thirds of the reported civilian causalities to Taliban insurgents whose tactics include the use of suicide bombers and roadside explosions which tend to kill or maim civilians.

Aerial strikes by US-led international forces have also caused civilian casualties, the AIHRC said.

Insecurity and violence have rapidly spread to parts of the country previously considered relatively stable, thus affecting development and humanitarian activities. Tens of thousands of people, mostly in the volatile south and southeast, have also been forced out of their homes, aid agencies said.

Increased number of deaths among aid agency staff

"Aid organisations and their staff have been subject to increasing attacks, threats and intimidation, by both insurgent and criminal groups," the ACBAR statement said.

The Afghanistan NGOs Safety Office reported 84 security incidents involving NGOs from January to July 2008 leading to the deaths of 19 NGO staff, more than the total number of aid workers killed last year.

"This situation has forced many aid agencies to restrict the scale and scope of their development and humanitarian operations," the NGOs statement said.

Amid increasing needs for relief - resulting from high food prices, severe drought and conflict-related displacements - the inability of aid agencies to reach and assist needy people could prompt a humanitarian crisis, aid workers have warned.

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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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