The United Nations says civilian assassinations in Afghanistan doubled last year, as an insurgency tries to stop international efforts to boost the country's government and security forces.
U.N. officials issued a report Wednesday indicating anti-government elements assassinated 462 civilians in 2010, up 105 percent from the previous year. It said half of these murders took place in Afghanistan's volatile south, where a surge of Western forces is trying to defeat a powerful insurgency.
At a news conference with U.N. officials in Kabul, Sima Samar, the head of the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, says war related casualties were also up last year.
"The number of civilian casualties in 2010 has risen to 2,777 civilians, which shows a 15 percent increase in numbers comparing the numbers in 2009," noted Samar.
The U.N. stated that the number of civilian deaths caused by Afghan and coalition force had decreased last year.
In an interview Wednesday, the top U.S. and NATO commander in Afghanistan, General David Petraeus said civilian casualties could increase as Taliban fighters attempt to take back southern strongholds during the traditional spring and summer fighting season.
Petraeus added, "There is some concern that there will be sensational attacks that could be indiscriminate in nature, we've seen some in the past month or two, suicide attacks carried out that kill innocent civilians and so forth. So, again, that is I think something to be expected in some number. Needless to say Afghan and ISAF forces will do all possible to reduce that to a minimum."
Petraeus spoke on Wednesday ahead of a trip to Washington, where he is scheduled to testify on Capitol Hill next week.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.