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UN Calls On Insurgents to End Attacks on Afghan Civilians

A soldier outside the Spozhmai hotel where officials say Taliban insurgents killed almost two dozen people, most of them civilians, just north of Kabul, June 22, 2012.
The United Nations is calling on insurgents to end attacks on civilians in Afghanistan.

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said Tuesday that 214 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded last week in 48 separate incidents. UNAMA said "anti-government elements" were responsible for 98 percent of the casualties.

On Friday, heavily-armed militants laid siege to a hotel outside Kabul - killing at least 20 people. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the attack, while the commander of international forces in Afghanistan, U.S. General John Allen, blamed the militant Haqqani network.

UNAMA says anti-government elements continue to target civilians, in "a clear violation of international humanitarian law."

The U.N. Security Council discussed the plight of civilians in armed conflicts on Monday - with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon noting the growing use of explosives in populated areas and the need to engage with "non-state armed groups" to ensure they understand the consequences of violating international law.

The U.N. says the council will debate the secretary-general's quarterly report on Afghanistan during a session on Wednesday, with the U.N. chief reiterating the need for all parties to the Afghan war to do more to protect civilians.

UNAMA recently welcomed NATO's decision to restrict the use of airstrikes in Afghan residential areas, following the June 6 coalition strike that Afghan officials say killed 18 civilians in Khost province.

Afghan President Hamid Karzai condemned the incident, saying any airstrike that kills civilians or damages their property is neither justified nor acceptable.

The U.N. has also expressed concerns about children increasingly becoming casualties of the Afghan war - with five children being killed or wounded per day.