Afghan rights group calls for action amid mounting civilian deaths
A human rights group in Afghanistan on Wednesday called for action to prevent civilian casualties in the war-torn southern Asian country, saying that deaths since the start of 2011 have risen by 7 per cent from the same period last year, DPA reported.
"For many Afghans, it's not very important which warring party has to be blamed for what percentage of the civilian casualties, but they want an end to the attacks - by pro-government and anti-government elements," Ajmal Samadi, director of the Afghanistan Rights Monitor (ARM), said in a statement.
Civilian casualties have been a major bone of contention recently between the Afghan government and international forces, especially US troops. Tensions spiked after the killing of nine children in the eastern province of Kunar earlier this month.
At least 390 civilians have been killed in conflict-related security incidents since the start of this year, according to ARM.
The Kabul-based group accused the Afghan government, Taliban insurgents, the United States and NATO of being "fiercely engaged in political blame games" and "distorting facts and figures to serve political and strategic purposes" instead of fixing the situation.
ARM blamed Afghan President Hamid Karzai's administration for failing to implement meaningful measures to address the causes of preventable civilian casualties, provide justice to the victims and hold the perpetrators accountable.
Karzai has harshly criticized US forces for causing civilian casualties during their operations in Afghanistan, but ARM accused the president of using the deaths for "political rhetoric."
It also blamed US and NATO forces, saying that they have yet to minimize civilian deaths despite promises to do so.
"They have done little, except for rare and selective sympathy statements, to provide financial and ethical compensations to the civilian victims," it said.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) had on Tuesday also pointed to a dramatic deterioration in the security situation for ordinary Afghans in the first two months of 2011.
"It is an untenable situation. Civilians must be protected from harm as much as possible, not become victims of the fighting," it said in a statement.
Last year had already been the bloodiest period for Afghans since the ouster of the Taliban regime in late 2001, with 2,777 civilian fatalities recorded, according to a recent United Nations report.