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ICRC Says Insecurity Spreading In Afghanistan


The International Committee of the Red Cross says insecurity in Afghanistan is spreading amid escalating conflict. It says the humanitarian situation in Afghanistan is worse now than it was a year ago and that civilians are suffering from mounting threats to their security. Lisa Schlein reports for VOA from Geneva.

The International Committee of the Red Cross says the conflict in Afghanistan has significantly intensified during the past 12 months. It says fighting is no longer limited to the southern part of the country.

ICRC Director of Operations, Pierre Krähenbühl, says it is incredibly difficult for ordinary Afghans to lead a normal life. He says some people say life is hardly bearable.

"We have multiple situations of roadside bombs, suicide attacks, targeted killings," Krähenbühl said. "We have also had situations of sustained and significant aerial bombing raids in military operations that have increased in frequency and, again, have spread to different parts of the country and continue today at a high pace. In that sense, Afghanistan today is far from being a stable country."

Krähenbühl says the situation has led to an increase in the number of war wounded admitted to hospitals. During the past year, the Red Cross has treated 1,800 people injured in the war.
He says the Red Cross does not have independent figures on the number of people killed or wounded in 2006. He says official sources put the number at about 4,000, of whom nearly 700 were civilians.

Red Cross official Krähenbühl says innocent civilians are often killed in the crossfire of military operations. He says it is very difficult in war to make sure that sufficient measures have been taken in densely populated areas to protect civilians. But, he insists the effort must be made.

"If you have groups of the armed opposition that enter a densely populated area and are present there among civilians, that presence does also expose civilians," Krähenbühl said. "It does constitute a threat for their security ... We know how difficult it is to take all of those measures. This is clear. But, again, it is a responsibility to do that. And, yes, in such instances, we think clearly much more must be done to preserve and spare civilians when these types of military operations are under way."

As the war has intensified, the Red Cross has expanded its medical assistance and now supports 14 health facilities. In addition, it says Red Cross delegates are visiting more people detained by Afghan authorities or international forces. During the past year, the Red Cross has seen nearly 2,500 prisoners.