Page last updated at 11:22 GMT, Friday, 1 August 2008 12:22 UK

Aid warning over Afghan violence

Two Afghan women receive their monthly aid ration from an international aid agency near Kabul (image: 29 June 2008)
Food prices and a feared drought are adding to the urgency

Aid agencies in Afghanistan have warned they may become unable to operate in parts of the country once seen as safe, because of the intensifying conflict.

A statement by 100 aid agencies pointed to a 50% increase in insurgent attacks compared to last year.

Aid agencies were increasingly becoming targets, they said.

Kabul blamed the rise in insurgent attacks on a truce between Pakistan's government and militants in tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

In their statement, the aid agencies criticised the rising number of civilian deaths, which they said were caused mainly by insurgents but also by international forces' air strikes.

'Grave concern'

The Agency Co-ordinating Body for Afghan Relief (Acbar), an umbrella group of non-governmental organisations in Afghanistan, expressed its "grave concern about the deteriorating security situation in Afghanistan and the serious impact on civilians".

Taleban in opium field in south-west Afghanistan, April 2008
2008: An estimated 84 attacks on aid agencies so far, 21 in June
July 2008: Two French aid workers abducted
May 2008: UN shuts a repatriation centre in the east amid unrest
Jan 2008: US female NGO worker seized in the south
July 2007: Two South Korean aid workers shot dead
April 2007: Two French aid workers seized in the south-west
March 2007: Gunmen shoot dead a German aid worker in the north

June saw more attacks on NGOs than in any month since the Taleban's overthrow in 2001 and some agencies have been forced to scale back operations, it said.

Nineteen aid workers have been killed so far this year - more than during the whole of 2007, said Acbar.

Some 2,500 people have been killed this year, up to 1,000 of them civilians, Acbar said.

About 260 civilians were killed in July alone, a higher number than any other month in the past six years, according to the NGOs.

"So far this year the number of insurgent attacks, bombings and other violent incidents is up by approximately 50% on the same period last year," they said.

Two-thirds of reported civilian casualties could be attributed to insurgent activities, estimated Acbar, "especially the increasing use of suicide bombings and other indiscriminate attacks in civilian areas and the use of civilian property from which to launch attacks".

Acbar said there had been 463 insurgent attacks in May and 569 in June.

But they said the growing number of air strikes by international military forces, up by about 40% on last year, had also contributed.

Nato commanders have said violence is up by some 40% in eastern Afghanistan since spring this year, partly due to troops patrolling more areas.

A Harrier attack aircraft takes off on patrol on 23 October 2002 from Bagram Airbase in Afghanistan
International forces have recourse to massive aerial firepower

Afghanistan's ambassador to the United Nations, Zahir Tanin, said the bloodshed was connected to peace deals Pakistan's four-month-old government had sought with Islamic militants in the north-western tribal areas, over the border.

He also referred to allegations that members of Pakistan's powerful spy agency had colluded with militants in Afghanistan.

Citing unnamed officials, the New York Times reported that intercepted communications had provided evidence Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence was involved in last month's suicide attack on the Indian embassy in Kabul which killed more than 40 people.

Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq told AFP news agency: "It's rubbish. We totally deny it."

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Slate Magazine Dissent in the MSM on Edwards. - 67 hrs ago
Tuscaloosa News C.I.A. Outlines Pakistan Links With Militants - 30 Jul 2008
Radio Free Europe U.S. Increases Pressure Over Tribal Regions - 30 Jul 2008
Mirror Afghans say time for Pakistani action on militants - 30 Jul 2008
Asia Times Online Pakistan feels the heat in Washington - 29 Jul 2008

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