Latest loss of Afghan lives prompts UN call for safeguarding civilians


22 February - A top United Nations official in Afghanistan has repeated the world body's call for all parties to the conflict to avoid civilian casualties, after an international military operation on Sunday reportedly killed at least 27 people, including women and children, in the southern province of Uruzgan.

“I am deeply saddened at the reports of the terrible loss of civilian life on Sunday in southern Afghanistan,” Robert Watkins, Deputy Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, said in a statement issued today.

According to Government figures, at least 27 civilians were killed and numerous others wounded during the aerial operations carried out by international military forces.

“I appreciate International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) statements that the armed forces currently engaging insurgents in southern Afghanistan have taken great precautionary measures to safeguard civilians,” said Mr. Watkins. “I also appreciate the quick acknowledgement of responsibility and the apology by ISAF regarding yesterday's loss of life in Uruzgan.

“However, measures highlighted in the tactical directives and guidelines issued by ISAF on the use of lethal force must be fully implemented at all times and under all circumstances,” he stated.

Mr. Watkins, who also serves as UN Humanitarian Coordinator in Afghanistan, added that trust in the intentions of the international military forces operating in the country will suffer greatly they do not take more care to protect Afghan lives.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) has consistently requested all parties to the conflict to do their utmost to avoid civilian casualties, a call reiterated today by Mr. Watkins.