International forces see surge in Afghan deaths
Published Sunday, June 24, 2007 10:29AM EDT
According to a recent tally, NATO and U.S. forces have killed more than 200 Afghan civilians this year while battling insurgents, surpassing 178 killed in attacks by militants.
The Associated Press, which tallied the civilian casualty estimate, reported escalating violence may have claimed another civilian life on Sunday.
British troops reportedly opened fire in a populated area after a convoy was struck by a roadside bomb, officials and witnesses told AP.
The reported death comes a day after Afghanistan's president delivered a scathing speech accusing NATO and U.S.-led forces of carelessly killing civilians in recent operations.
More than 90 Afghan civilians have been killed in militant and insurgent attacks in the past 10 days President Hamid Karzai said.
Karzai suggested the international community considered Afghan lives to be "cheap" and that there was "a serious lack of coordination" between the Afghan government and foreign forces.
"Several time in the last year, Afghan government tried to prevent civilian casualties, but our innocent people are becoming victims of careless operations of NATO and international forces," Karzai said in a mixture of English and his native Pashto.
President Karzai spoke a day after Afghan police said a NATO airstrike killed 25 civilians as well as 20 militants who had fired on NATO and Afghan troops in the southern province of Helmand.
Coalition spokesman Maj. Chris Belcher told AP it's difficult to determine who actually killed Afghan victims after explosive fire fights with insurgents.
"One of the problems is sometimes determining who exactly caused the casualties. It's not always clear if a civilian casualty is caused by an extremist or coalition forces," Belcher said.
Militants often dress in civilian clothing and seek refuge in villagers' homes, which further complicates the accuracy of civilian death tolls.
Fighting often takes place in areas too dangerous or too far for foreign agencies and international journalists to travel in order to verify causality numbers.
The AP tally of casualties is based on reports from witnesses, Afghan and foreign officials.
- 399 civilian deaths have occurred so far this year
- 18 of the 399 were killed in the crossfire between Taliban and international forces.
- 203 civilians were killed this year by U.S. and NATO forces.
The U.S. and NATO did not have civilian casualty figures.
The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan says 213 civilians have been killed by insurgents in the first five months of 2007 with 207 of the deaths attributed to Afghan and international forces.
With files from the Associated Press