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John Allen, US Afghan Commander Calls on Taliban to Save Lives

February 4, 2012

The top U.S. military commander in Afghanistan is responding to new data on civilian casualties — calling on the Taliban to stop the killing of innocent men, women and children.

General John Allen said Saturday the death toll from insurgent attacks “is much too high and deserves Mullah Omar's direct attention and action.” He also said he expected the Afghan Taliban to “act immediately” if it had any real interest in stopping the killings.

The commander of the International Security Assistance Force issued his statement Saturday, hours after a United Nations report said more than 3,000 civilians died in Afghanistan's conflict last year. The report called the 2011 death toll the worst in the decade-long war.

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said insurgents were responsible for 77 percent of the Afghan civilian deaths. The number of deaths caused by NATO-led and Afghan government forces dropped by 4 percent.

Nearly one-third of the civilians killed died as a result of bombs, including roadside mines detonated by people stepping on them or vehicles driving over them.

The U.N. report said 2011 is the fifth year in a row that civilian casualties have increased, jumping 8 percent from 2010.

In all, the report said 3,021 civilians were killed in 2011. It said insurgents were responsible for more than 2,300 deaths, compared to just 410 civilian deaths by NATO or Afghan government forces.

The death toll from suicide attacks rose dramatically in 2011 to 450, an increase of 80 percent over 2010.

On the streets of Kabul, some residents rejected the report's findings, blaming the majority of the deaths on NATO bombing missions. Others said the number of casualties seemed too low with the increasing number of suicide attacks in areas the U.N. is unable to monitor.

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