Civilian casualties reportedly peak in August

One hundred and sixty civilians died in armed conflicts, suicide attacks, improvised explosions and aerial bombardments in Afghanistan in August, the country’s human rights watchdog told IRIN on 4 September.

August marked a 16.6 percent increase in civilian deaths over July when 144 non-combatants reportedly lost their lives, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said.

One hundred and sixty-eight civilians died in armed conflicts, suicide attacks, improvised explosions and aerial bombardments in Afghanistan in August, the country’s human rights watchdog told IRIN on 4 September.

August marked a 16.6 percent increase in civilian deaths over July when 144 non-combatants reportedly lost their lives, the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) said.

“Two thirds of the 168 civilian deaths happened in military operations conducted by international forces against their opposition,” said Mohammad Farid Hamidi, an AIHRC official.

Hamidi, however, did not exclusively blame US and NATO-led Western forces for the dozens of civilian casualties.

“The Taliban use civilians as human shields and use perfidious tactics, which endanger ordinary people’s lives,” Hamidi acknowledged.

The AIHRC accused all sides of not providing civilian protection during their military operations.

Investigating civilian causalities

Insecurity has impeded access to conflict areas making it very difficult, if not impossible, for impartial observers to assess the impact of the fighting on civilians.

In an effort to end confusion about civilian casualties, the country’s human rights body has decided to set up an independent unit to regularly investigate, authenticate and report incidents in which armed conflicts affect people’s lives.

“We call on all parties to the conflict to ensure our access to conflict-affected areas and help us disclose reliable facts about incidents in which civilians are harmed,” Hamidi said.

US and NATO-led international troops based in Afghanistan have often refuted reports of civilian casualties in their military operations against Taliban insurgents.

"In a number of cases we have gone out and investigated, where they have claimed there were civilians killed and in fact those were unfounded," Reuters quoted US Army Brig-Gen Perry Wiggins as saying.

Taliban insurgents have also refuted reports that their fighters, in clear violation of the rules of war, deliberately harm civilians in their hit-and-run attacks.

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