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Taliban killing more civilians

Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan - Taliban insurgents are carrying out more attacks this year than at any time since early in the war, killing increasing numbers of civilians as U.S.-led forces push into the militants' southern strongholds, an Afghan rights group said Monday.

International troops were responsible for about one-fifth of civilian deaths, down from previous years, thanks to restrictive rules of engagement some soldiers feel put their lives at risk.

That so many noncombatants are dying shows the international force has yet to succeed in its goal of protecting the Afghan people, whose trust and support are key components of NATO's new counterinsurgency strategy in the nearly 9-year-old war.

At least 1,074 civilians died in the first half of this year, triple the number of international forces killed over the same period, the Afghanistan Rights Monitor said in a report that called 2010 the worst year for security since shortly after the demise of the Taliban regime.

Violence has soared as coalition forces, bolstered by 30,000 American reinforcements, move into Taliban strongholds in the south and east to try to wrest the areas from the militants, strengthen Afghan government control and win Afghans' trust. The insurgents have replied with ambushes, suicide attacks, roadside bombs and assassinations.

The number of civilian deaths are up in 2010, though only slightly, over the previous year's first half, but the number of insurgent attacks - and their share of the civilian deaths - has spiked.

Afghanistan Rights Monitor director Ajmal Samadi said the group recorded 1,200 violent incidents in June alone, the most in a single month since early 2002. The number included coalition actions such as airstrikes against insurgents, but Samadi said the vast majority were attacks by the Taliban and its militant allies.

Fierce resistance had been expected, but as reports of bombings and assassinations mount around the country, some ordinary Afghans feel more uneasy.

fast facts

6 killed by bomb

NATO reported Monday that six Afghan civilians were killed and four were wounded when their car hit a roadside bomb in Helmand province's Lashkar Gahdistrict. A coalition helicopter evacuated the wounded for treatment and came under fire from militants.