Afghanistan: top UN envoy voices concern over mounting civilian toll

31 December 2009

As the United Nations investigates a joint raid by Afghan and international forces in which 10 people – mostly students – were killed, the world body’s top envoy to Afghanistan today appealed to all groups, both government and insurgent, to step up efforts to distinguish between civilians and combatants.

Details surrounding the 27 December incident, in which the 10 civilians were killed in northeast Afghanistan, are still unclear, but according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), there is strong evidence pointing to insurgents having been in the area at the time.

“I appeal again to all of the armed actors to make every effort to minimise harm to civilians and want to underline the importance of taking all precautionary measures to distinguish between civilians and combatants,” Kai Eide, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative, said in a statement.

“Greater efforts must be made to reverse current trends so that civilians are spared the worst effects of armed conflict in the coming year.”

Mr. Eide, who also heads UNAMA, said that the world body remains concerned about night-time raids since they are often deadly and local authorities are frustrated when operations are not coordinated with them.

For safety and cultural reasons, evening raids are distressful to families directly affected by them, as well as to communities throughout Afghanistan, he added.

“UNAMA is equally concerned about the risks posed to civilians by insurgents living or operating in residential areas,” the envoy said. “They account for the majority and an increasing proportion of civilian deaths.”

 

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