U.N. reports big increase in Afghan violence this year

KABUL, Afghanistan — Violence in Afghanistan is up nearly 40 percent over last year, a United Nations report released Wednesday found, contradicting claims by the U.S.-led coalition that security has improved since last year.

The U.N. report, information for which is compiled by the U.N. mission here and submitted to the Security Council quarterly, said that as of the end of August, there had been an average of 2,108 "security incidents" each month this year, a 39 percent increase compared with the same period in 2010.

The average number of suicide attacks monthly, 12, remained unchanged, the report said, but more of those attacks were complex and coordinated, involving more than a lone bomber, the report said. The monthly average of three such complex attacks this year is 50 percent higher than the number for the same period in 2010.

A report from the U.S.-led International Security Assistance Force in August painted a sharply different situation.

"Throughout 2011 ISAF has seen significant security improvements throughout Afghanistan and violence is down in 12 of the past 16 weeks as compared to the same period in 2010," the coalition's report said.

There was no comment from coalition spokesmen on the U.N. report.

The U.N. report found that violence remained high in Afghanistan's south and southeast, areas where U.S. troops have stepped up operations against Taliban forces.

It also found that civilian casualties have risen steadily: up 5 percent in June, July and August from the same months last year. That followed a 15 percent hike that the U.N. reported for the first six months of the year.

All told, 971 Afghans died in violence from June through August, the U.N. report said. The actions of the Taliban and its allies caused 77 percent of those deaths, the report found. The U.S. and its allies caused 12 percent of those deaths, it said.

Forty-five percent of civilian casualties were the result of suicide bombs and improvised explosive devices, the report said. The greatest coalition cause of death remained NATO airstrikes.

The U.N. also reported an increase in the number of officials killed in the Taliban's ongoing campaign of intimidation and terrorism aimed at influential local and religious figures.

There were 126 such incidents in July and August alone, resulting in the deaths of 89 and 93 individuals, respectively, each month.

The report listed the following prominent officials as having been killed in July: Ahmed Wali Karzai, the half brother of President Hamid Karzai and the head of the provincial council in Kandahar; Hekmatullah Hekmat, the head of Kandahar's clerics council; Jan Mohammed Khan, a senior adviser to President Karzai; and Ghulam Haider Hamidi, the mayor of Kandahar.

The report said the focus of suicide attacks had moved from the country's south, with "the central region currently accounting for 21 percent of such attacks."

In violence Wednesday, gunmen launched a predawn attack on a police checkpoint near Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province. Eight Afghan national police officers were killed and three wounded.

A provincial spokesman, Dawod Ahmadi, said that one police officer was missing, and police were investigating whether he might have been involved in the attack.

Lashkar Gah was one of seven locations where the U.S.-led military coalition transferred security responsibility to Afghan police over the summer.

(Zohori is a McClatchy special correspondent.)


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