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Afghanistan sees first drop in violence against civilians in 5 years, U.N. finds

From Masoud Popalzai, CNN
updated 10:59 AM EDT, Wed August 8, 2012
Violence against Afghan civilians fell in the first half of the year, according to a new report by the United Nations.
Violence against Afghan civilians fell in the first half of the year, according to a new report by the United Nations.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: The Taliban rejects the report, saying it is trying not to target civilians
  • It's the first time in five years there has been a fall in violence against civilians
  • The drop brings the level down only to what it was two years ago
  • Attacks still take a "devastating toll on civilians," the U.N. mission in Afghanistan says

Kabul, Afghanistan (CNN) -- The United Nations finds a tiny glimmer of good news in Afghanistan in a new report out Wednesday, saying that violence against civilians fell in the first half of the year.

But even with attacks down 15% compared with the first six months of 2011, violence is taking a "devastating toll on civilians," the United Nations said.

It cited the case of a father who brought his family to collect ID cards from a government office in Herat province, leaving his children and their mother by the gate while he went to find staff members.

"I heard a loud explosion and I ran back to the gate. I saw people lying in blood on the ground. I saw one of my daughters dead on the ground and my other three daughters and their mother wounded," said the man, who was not named in the report.

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Another of his daughters later died of her wounds in the April attack that left 13 people dead and 57 wounded, the U.N. said.

They were among 1,145 people killed and 1,954 injured in the first six months of the year, the report found. That's down from 1,510 killed and 2,144 injured in the same period a year earlier.

But the drop does little more than to bring levels of violence down to what they were in 2010, says the report from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.

Still, the drop marks the first time in five years there has been a fall rather than a rise in violence against civilians, the report said.

Eighty percent of the attacks against civilians are by anti-government forces such as the Taliban, the U.N. said, while 10% are by government forces. The world body could not determine responsibility for the other 10%, the report said.

The Taliban rejected the report as "baseless and untrue," saying its fighters were taking more care not to kill civilians.

"Our freedom fighters are now more responsible and careful when it comes to civilian casualties. That is why, in general, civilian casualty has decreased," Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid said.

He also disputed the U.N. definition of "civilian," saying: "The Kabul administration and whoever either works for them or supports them in one way or the other can be our target."

He accused "the invaders" and the government of killing, injuring and jailing civilians, and said the U.N. report did not include them.

"The Afghan people are our own people, and those who don't have any links with invaders will always be safe, and we would put our lives at great risk to keep them safe," he said.

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