U.N. says Afghan violence up 30 percent
Yahoo News/AP
By JASON STRAZIUSO and RAHIM FAIEZ, Associated Press Writers
October 2, 2007

KABUL, Afghanistan - Violence in Afghanistan has surged nearly 30 percent this year and suicide bombings are inflicting a high toll on civilians, a new United Nations report says.

The report said Afghanistan is averaging 550 violent incidents a month, up from an average of 425 last year. It said three-fourths of suicide bombings are targeting international and Afghan security forces, but suicide bombers also killed 143 civilians through August.

"Suicide attacks have been accompanied by attacks against students and schools, assassinations of officials, elders and mullahs, and the targeting of police in a deliberate and calculated effort to impede the establishment of legitimate government institutions," according to the report, which was released in New York last week.

A suicide attack Tuesday on a police bus in western Kabul killed 13 officers and civilians, including a woman and her two children who boarded the vehicle seconds before the explosion, the Afghan government reported. It was the second bombing of a bus in the capital in four days.

The U.N. report didn't give any other violence-related numbers.

An Associated Press count of insurgency-related deaths, meanwhile, reached 5,086 in the first nine months of this year. AP counted 4,019 deaths in 2006, based on violent incidents reported by Western and Afghan officials. That was the first year AP compiled such figures.

The AP tally for this year includes more than 3,500 militants killed and more than 650 civilians dead from either insurgent violence or U.S. or NATO attacks.

Almost 180 international soldiers have been killed. That includes 85 U.S. military personnel, nearing the total of 98 American deaths reported by the Pentagon for all of 2006.

Insurgents have staged a record number of suicide attacks this year — more than 100, including the two bus bombings in Kabul since Saturday that killed 43 people between them.

Four children were among the 13 people killed in Tuesday's suicide attack by a man wearing a pakul — an Afghan hat commonly seen in the country's north — and a shawl around the upper half of his body called a chador, said Amin Gul, who owns a metalworking shop next to the blast site.

"When the bus came, an old man got on, then a woman with two children, then the guy wearing the chador entered, and then a big boom," said Gul, who witnessed the attack.

The seats in the front of the bus were covered in blood and small body parts, and workers washed blood from nearby trees after the attack. Ten people were wounded in the bombing, Health Minister Mohammad Amin Fatemi said.

Ahmad Saqi, a 20-year-old mechanic, said he helped put seven people in vehicles for runs to the hospital, and that several of the wounded had no legs.

"One woman was holding a baby in her arms, and they were both killed," Saqi said. "Half of the woman's face was blown off."

The blast killed eight police officers, the mother, her baby and another child, as well as two unaccompanied children who had been heading to a special school for handicapped students, Fatemi said. The children ranged in age from 2 to 8.

"The woman's husband is working at the Health Ministry. How do we tell the father his wife and two kids are dead?" asked Fatemi. "This attack goes against all of Islam. There is no reason to blow up Muslims, especially during the holy month of Ramadan. My message to these people: Please stop killing Muslims."

Tuesday's explosion is the third attack in four months against police or army buses in Kabul.

On Saturday, a suicide bomber wearing an army uniform blew himself up in an army bus, killing 30 people. In June, a bomb ripped through a bus carrying police instructors in Kabul, killing 35 people in the deadliest insurgent attack since the 2001 invasion.

A coalition soldier was killed by gunfire Tuesday morning while conducting combat operations in the northeastern province of Kunar. Three other soldiers were wounded, the coalition said in a statement. The nationalities of the soldiers weren't provided, but most soldiers in eastern Afghanistan are American.

Militants in Kunar attacked a border security post, killing three police, said Zargun Shah Khaliqyar, a spokesman for the provincial governor. It was not clear if the two incidents in Kunar were related.

Canadian troops in Kandahar shot and killed a 35-year-old man and wounded a child in what NATO's International Security Assistance Force called an "accidental discharge" by a weapons system.

The Afghan Defense Ministry, meanwhile, said Afghan and coalition soldiers battled insurgents in Uruzgan province on Sunday, killing 26 of the militants. There was no way to independently verify the claim.

Associated Press writer Amir Shah contributed to this report.

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