Afghanistan: Civilian deaths hit 'record levels'

An Afghan woman mourns as she holds a poster with photos of her family members killed during a US-led raid in Herat province in Afghanistan in 2008 Most civilian deaths are blamed on insurgents, but about a fifth were caused by foreign troops

The number of civilians killed in Afghanistan since the US-led invasion a decade ago hit record levels last year, according to a new report.

Some 2,421 civilians were killed, most at the hands of insurgents, the Kabul-based Afghanistan Rights Monitor said.

Foreign troops were to blame for about a fifth of all deaths - a slight fall on the previous year, the report says.

Correspondents say most officials are expecting at least the same level of violence, if not higher, this year.

'Fear and intimidation'

As many as seven civilians were killed every day in Afghanistan last year, a record in the nine-year-old war, according to the Afghanistan Rights Monitor.

"Over 3,270 were injured in conflict-related security incidents across Afghanistan," the report said.

Insurgents - the Taliban, the Haqqani group and others - are to blame for about 60% of the deaths, it said.

The report tallies with preliminary figures released by the UN last year.

When attacks are launched on government or international forces, Afghans are often caught in the crossfire, the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Kabul says.

Ahmed Nader Nadery of the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission says people are losing patience.

"People are fed up with the continuous massacring of civilians by the forces as brutal as the Taliban, who blindly and intentionally are committed to kill civilians and create an environment of fear and intimidation," he said.

About a fifth of civilian deaths are blamed on international forces, slightly down on 2009 figures.

There has been a dramatic increase in assassinations carried out by insurgents - 400 in 2010, compared to 230 the year before.

Government employees, politicians and tribal elders have all been targeted.

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