Afghanistan: 2010 bloodiest year for a decade, UN says

US marine and Afghan woman in Helmand province Nato are held to be responsible for 16% of the deaths

There has been a large increase in the number of civilians killed in the war in Afghanistan for the second year in a row, according to a UN report.

More than 2,700 civilians were killed in 2010 - up 15% on the year before.

The UN blamed the Taliban and other insurgents for the rise, saying 75% of all deaths were down to them. The Taliban called the report "one-sided".

The numbers killed by Afghan and Nato forces fell, accounting for 16% of civilian deaths, the UN found.

However the BBC's Quentin Sommerville in Kabul says that the recent accidental killing of nine boys by American forces show that the deaths of Afghans at foreign hands resonates deeply, and provokes even greater outrage than killings by the Taliban.

Top Nato commander Gen David Petraeus apologised for the incident last week.

It was described by President Hamid Karzai as "merciless". He warned that foreign forces would encounter "huge problems" if the "daily killing of innocent civilians" did not stop.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yusuf Ahmadi disputed the UN's figures.

"Where do they get these numbers from, what sources do they have? Foreign forces are responsible for civilian casualties in bombing and firing," he told the BBC.

'Alarming' trend

The UN report shows that assassinations and the killing of women and children all rose dramatically, making 2010 the bloodiest year yet in a war which is now in its 10th year.

The numbers killed by government and Nato forces declined sharply - the report said they were to blame for 16% of deaths, a fall of 26% compared with 2009.


  • 2,777 civilians killed
  • 83% rise in abductions
  • 105% increase in targeted killings
  • 588% and 248% rise in civilian killings in Helmand and Kandahar provinces
  • 26% decline in the number of civilian deaths caused by coalition and Afghan forces
  • 21% rise in the number of child casualties
  • 6% rise in the number of women casualties

Source: United Nations

The number of assassinations doubled to 462, the report said.

But the most "alarming" trend was a 105% increase in the targeted killing of government officials, aid workers and civilians perceived to be supportive of the Afghan government or Nato-led foreign forces.

Correspondents say that the tactic threatens to undermine the handover of responsibility for security to the Afghan government, police and army starting this year.

In many parts of Afghanistan, local governors live behind sandbags on US military outposts while government officials rarely travel to the areas they are supposed to be administering.

The social and psychological impact of assassinations are "more devastating than a body count would suggest", the report says.

"An individual deciding to join a district shura (meeting), to campaign for a particular candidate, to take a job with a development organisation, or to speak freely about a new Taliban commander in the area, often knows that their decision may have life or death consequences," it said.

"This suppression of individuals' rights also has political, economic and social consequences as it impedes governance and development efforts."

Government workers, politicians and tribal elders are being targeted as the insurgents attempt to prevent the transfer of power from international forces to Afghans.

Most were killed by roadside bombs - with children suffering especially badly. There was a 21% increase in child deaths in 2010.

Both sides see this as a critical year for the conflict and fighting is expected to get worse.

Human rights groups fear that the Taliban are becoming more brutal. Civilians will continue to be caught in the middle, with even higher casualties expected in the year ahead.

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