07/10/2008, 00.00
AFGHANISTAN
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In Kabul, security down, killings up among minors and civilian population

In just the past week, conflicts between the allied troops and Islamic militias have caused more than 250 deaths and injuries. Children under fire, used by the Taliban as "suicide bombers or for paramilitary actions", while the police exploit them for "sexual purposes".

Kabul (AsiaNews/Agencies) - In the past week, at least 250 civilians have died or have been seriously injured in clashes between the army and the Taliban rebel militias. The charge is made in a report from Red Cross International, which calls upon "both parties" to safeguard the lives of the defenceless population. These are worrying figures, seconded by information provided by NATO, according to which more than 900 people, many of them civilians, have lost their lives in the country since January of 2008.

Last July 7, a suicide attacker in Kabul carried out a genuine slaughter, killing more than 40 people, while two allied air raids caused a dozen of victims over the weekend. The problem of security for the civilian population appears increasingly more pressing in Afghanistan, so much so that president Karza has repeatedly asked personally that allied forces pay "more attention" during attacks.

According to the document published by the Red Cross, "civilians must never be the target of an attack, unless they take a direct part in the fighting", while the United Nations raises an alarm, stressing that the number of deaths among the population has grown by 75% compared to the same period last year.

To the widespread sense of insecurity among the people is added the drama of the children, the ones most deeply impacted by the conflict that is still bloodying the country today. "It takes an Afghan child a very long time to smile", says Radhika Coomaraswamy, special representative of the UN Secretary General for Children and Armed Conflict. "The war has killed, maimed, or traumatised an increasing number of minors", and the tendency of the Taliban seems that of "exploiting even the youngest as suicide bombers" or involving them "in paramilitary actions of various kinds". An accusation that is also lodged against the Afghan national police, which perpetrates "sexual violence against minors", a behaviour that "must be rooted out", according to the UN spokesperson.

Of the most fortunate of the children are able to go to school - about 6 million in the country, 40% of them girls - but over the past 18 months, even the schools have undergone serious consequences because of the war: according to UNICEF data, in the course of 311 confirmed attacks on primary or secondary schools, 84 people were killed between students, teachers, and employees, while 115 were wounded.  Many schools have shut their doors for security reasons.

In the meantime, a document produced by the UN agency for children denounces that Afghanistan has the second-highest rate of infant mortality in the world, after Sierra Leone, with 165 deaths for every 1,000 births. The Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission published last April the data from a study on the basis of which 42% of the 2,250 minors interviewed say that they "do not have access to basic medical care".

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