UNAMA, Human Rights


January 2010

Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009

UNAMA Human Rights United Nations



Executive Summary

I. Impact of the Armed Conflict on Civilians: 2009…………………………………………1

II. Anti-Government Elements………………………………………………………………………8

AGE and Civilian Casualties……………………………………………………………..8

Suicide and IED attacks………………………………………………………….9

Assassinations, Threats and Intimidation………………………………..12

III. Pro-Government Forces………………………………………………………………………..16

PGF and Civilian Casualties…………………………………………………………….16

Aerial attack………………………………………………………………………..17

Location of Military Bases……………………………………………………. 19

Search and seizure operations……………………………………………….. 20

Searches and attacks against medical facilities………………………… 21

Accountability/Redress…………………………………………………………………… 22

IV. Conclusion…………………………………………………………………………………………. 24

Appendices………………………………………………………………………………………………. 25

Executive Summary

The intensification and spread of the armed conflict in Afghanistan continued to take

a heavy toll on civilians throughout 2009. At least 5,978 civilians were killed and

injured in 2009, the highest number of civilian casualties recorded since the fall of the

Taliban regime in 2001. Afghans in the southern part of the country, where the

conflict is the most intense, were the most severely affected. Nearly half of all civilian

casualties, namely 45%, occurred in the southern region. High casualty figures have

also been reported in the southeastern (15%), eastern (10%), central (12%) and

western (8%) regions. Previously stable areas, such as the northeast, have also

witnessed increasing insecurity, such as in Kunduz Province. In addition to a growing

number of civilian casualties, conflict-affected populations have also experienced loss

of livelihood, displacement, and destruction of property and personal assets.

UNAMA Human Rights (HR) recorded a total of 2,412 civilian deaths between 01

January and 31 December 2009. This figure represents an increase of 14% on the

2118 civilian deaths recorded in 2008. Of the 2,412 deaths reported in 2009, 1,630

(67%) were attributed to anti-Government elements (AGEs) and 596 (25%) to pro-

Government forces (PGF). The remaining 186 deaths (8%) could not be attributed to

any of the conflicting parties given as some civilians died as a result of cross-fire or

were killed by unexploded ordinance.

AGEs remain responsible for the largest proportion of civilian deaths. Civilian deaths

reportedly caused by the armed opposition increased by 41% between 2008 and 2009,

from 1,160 to 1,630. Deaths resulting from insurgent-related activities in 2009 were

a ratio of approximately three to one as compared to casualties caused by PGF. 1,054

civilians were victims of suicide and other improvised explosive device (IED) attacks

by AGEs and 225 were victims of targeted assassinations and executions. These make

up the majority of casualties caused by AGE activities and is 53% of the total number

of civilian deaths in 2009.

Together, these tactics accounted for 78% of the noncombatant

deaths attributed to the actions of the armed opposition. The remainder of

casualties caused by AGE actions resulted primarily from rocket attacks and ground

engagements in which civilian bystanders were directly affected.

Suicide and IED attacks caused more civilian casualties than any other tactic, killing

1,054 civilians, or 44% of the total civilian casualties in 2009. Although such attacks

have primarily targeted government or international military forces, they are often

carried out in areas frequented by civilians. Civilians are also deliberately targeted

with assassinations, abductions, and executions if they are perceived to be supportive

of, or associated with, the Government or the international community. A broad range

of civilians – including community elders, former military personnel, doctors,

teachers and construction workers – have been targeted. Other actors, such as the

UN and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) have also been targeted, often

receiving threats, and in some cases becoming victims of violence. Through these

actions, the armed opposition has demonstrated a significant disregard for the

suffering inflicted on civilians. Intermingling with the civilian population and the

frequent use of residential homes as bases puts civilians at risk of attack by the

Afghan National Security Forces (ANSF) and international military (IM) forces.

Afghanistan Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009

Pro-Government forces – Afghan National Security Forces and International Military

(IM) forces – were responsible for 596 recorded deaths; this is 25% of the total

civilian casualties recorded in 2009. This is a reduction of 28% from the total number

of deaths attributed to pro-Government forces in 2008. This decrease reflects

measures taken by international military forces to conduct operations in a manner that

reduces the risk posed to civilians.

Notwithstanding some positive trends, actions by PGF continued to take an adverse

toll on civilians. UNAMA HR recorded 359 civilians killed due to aerial attacks,

which constitutes 61% of the number of civilian deaths attributed to pro-Government

forces. This is 15% of the total number of civilians killed in the armed conflict during

2009. IM forces and ANSF also conducted a number of ground operations that caused

civilian casualties, including a large number of search and seizure operations. These

often involved excessive use of force, destruction to property and cultural

insensitivity, particularly towards women.

UNAMA HR remains concerned at the location of military bases, especially those

that are situated within, or close to, areas where civilians are concentrated. The

location and proximity of such bases to civilians runs the risk of increasing the

dangers faced by civilians, as such military installations are often targeted by the

armed opposition. Civilians have been killed and injured as a result of their proximity

to military bases, homes and property have been damaged or destroyed; this can lead

to loss of livelihood and income. The location of military facilities in or near

residential neighborhoods has also had the effect of generating fear and mistrust

within communities and antipathy towards IM forces given their experience of being

caught in the crossfire or being the victims of AGE attacks on Government or pro-

Government military installations

International military forces did take strategic and specific steps to minimize civilian

casualties in 2009. The change in ISAF command, clearer command structures, and a

new tactical directive have all contributed to the efforts by ISAF to reduce the impact

of the armed conflict on civilians. However, a Civilian Casualty Tracking Cell, that

was established in 2008 in ISAF (with a similar tracking mechanism in USFOR-A)

has not proved very effective in addressing UNAMA concerns in a timely manner.

Measures need to be taken to improve the Tracking Cell so that it can be more

responsive and helpful in relation to civilian casualty incidents.

This report on the protection of civilians in armed conflict in Afghanistan in 2009 is

compiled in pursuance of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan

(UNAMA) mandate under United Nations Security Council Resolution 1868 (2009).

UNAMA Human Rights undertakes a range of activities aimed at minimizing the

impact of the conflict on civilians; this includes independent and impartial monitoring

of incidents involving loss of life or injury to civilians and analysis of trends to

identify the circumstances in which loss of life occurs.

UNAMA Human Rights officers (national and international), deployed around Afghanistan, utilize a broad range of techniques to gather information on specific cases irrespective of location or

who may be responsible. Such information is cross-checked and analyzed, with a

range of diverse sources, for credibility and reliability to the satisfaction of the Human

Rights officer conducting the investigation, before details are recorded in a dedicated


An electronic database was established in January 2009. The database is

Afghanistan Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009

designed to facilitate the collection and analysis of information, including

disaggregation by age and gender. However, due to limitations arising from the

operating environment, such as the joint nature of some operations and the inability of

primary sources in most instances to precisely identify or distinguish between diverse

military actors/insurgents, UNAMA HR does not break down responsibility for

particular incidents other than attributing them to “pro-Government forces” or “anti-

Government elements.”

UNAMA HR does not claim that the statistics presented in

this report are complete; it may be the case that, given the limitations in the operating

environment, UNAMA HR is under-reporting civilian casualties.

UNAMA HR information on civilian casualties is, routinely, made available,

internally and externally, to the Security Council through the UN Secretary General,

the Special Representative of the Secretary General (SRSG) UNAMA, the UN

Emergency Relief Coordinator, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human

Rights (OHCHR), and other UN mechanisms as appropriate. UNAMA Human Rights

advocates with a range of actors, including Afghan authorities, international military

forces, and others with a view to strengthening compliance with international

humanitarian law and international human rights law. It also undertakes a range of

activities on issues relating to the armed conflict, and protection of civilians with the

Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC), the humanitarian

community, and members of civil society.

2009 was the worst year in recent times for civilians affected by the armed conflict.

UNAMA HR recorded the highest number of civilian casualties since the fall of the

Taliban regime in 2001. The conflict has intensified and spread into areas that

previously were considered relatively secure. This has resulted in increasing numbers

of civilian dead and injured and with corresponding devastation and destruction of

property and civilian infrastructure, often leading to loss of income and livelihoods.

The use of asymmetric tactics by the armed opposition is a significant factor in the

growing number of civilians who are killed and injured. The use of air strikes and the

placement of military facilities in civilian areas greatly increase the risk of civilians

being killed and injured. The United Nations calls upon all parties to the conflict to

respect and uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law and

international human rights law in order to minimize the impact of the conflict upon


Afghanistan Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009



This has been the worst year for civilian casualties since UNAMA HR began

systematically documenting these incidents in 2007. The conflict has intensified: it

has spread, affecting previously tranquil areas, such as in the northeast, and deepened

as it has moved from rural to urban areas. The continued volatile security situation as

a result of increased armed attacks, persistent fighting throughout the year, including

the winter months, cross-border infiltration of armed groups and the increase in the

number of pro-Government forces have all contributed towards an intensification of

the conflict. In addition to conducting hostilities, the Taliban has established shadow

governments in some areas, directly confronting or undermining the authority of the

Government of Afghanistan (GoA). Conflict has grown intense, particularly in the

southern regions, and impacted on some major urban areas, sharply increasing its

affects on civilians. The usual winter lull in hostilities has also largely failed to

materialize depriving civilians of any respite. The manner in which the conflict is

conducted continues to evolve including in ways that increase the risk posed to


Moreover, access to vulnerable populations continues to be challenging as growing

insecurity shrinks humanitarian space. In addition to those who are directly victimized

by incidents of warfare, resulting in death and injury, a large swathe of the population

continues to suffer the indirect and accumulated costs of armed conflict. This includes

their ability to move freely without fear or harassment and to access services essential

for their health, well-being, and education. The conflict has also taken a heavy toll on

civilians by destroying infrastructure, undermining livelihood opportunities,

displacing communities, and eroding the quality and availability of basic services.

This has often disproportionately affected vulnerable individuals, such as women,

children and the internally displaced. Armed conflict, of course, has significant

repercussions for socio-economic development efforts and exacerbates the

development deficit.

UNAMA HR recorded a total of 2,412 civilians killed over the 12 month period under

review. This figure represents an increase of 14% on the 2,118 civilian deaths

recorded in 2008. The 2009 civilian death toll is the highest of any year since the fall

of the Taliban regime in 2001. UN preliminary figures show that there is a 29.6% year

on year increase in security-related incidents, with an average of 960.3 incidents per

month as compared to 741.1 incidents per month for 2008. The elections period saw

the most pervasive violence of 2009. AGEs discouraged Afghans from voting and

were responsible for threats and assassinations against electoral candidates and staff.

Violence surrounding the 20 August Presidential and Provincial Council elections was

widespread and significant; it included, for example, two suicide attacks in Kabul on

15 and 18 August respectively and a suicide attack in Kandahar city on 25 August.

Overall, September proved to be the deadliest month, with 336 civilians killed.

Of the 2,412 civilian deaths reported in 2009, 1,630 (67%) were caused by AGEs and

596 (25%) were caused by PGF. The remaining 186 (8%) could not be attributed to

either of the conflicting parties. As in previous years, the majority of civilian

casualties occurred in the southern region of Afghanistan. However, the south-east,

east, west and central regions also reported high numbers of civilian casualties. The

Afghanistan Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009


Conflict has spread into what were previously relatively tranquil areas, including the

northeast, which had previously seen limited AGE activity.

The tactics responsible for the largest number of civilian casualties during the year

were IEDs, suicide attacks, and aerial attacks (air strikes and close air support). These

attacks frequently resulted in civilian fatalities and the destruction of civilian property

and infrastructure. Often used in an indiscriminate manner, many civilians bore the

brunt of IED and suicide attacks and were killed and injured as a result. Although

AGEs continued to principally target ANSF and IM forces the placement of IEDs and

the location of suicide attacks often resulted in large numbers of civilians being killed.

Many IEDs (both remote controlled and trigger detonated) are placed along roads

heavily used by civilian vehicles and pedestrians. UNAMA HR has recorded,

moreover, a number of instances in which IEDs have been placed in crowded

residential and commercial areas, such as market places and shops. Suicide attacks

have targeted government buildings, such as Ministries and provincial ANSF

buildings that are often located in busy civilian areas.

2009 year saw a marked increase in the number of civilians who were targeted by the

AGEs as they were, apparently, perceived to support, or be associated with, the GoA,

ANSF, or IM forces. As a result, traditional tribal structures, especially in the

southern regions of Afghanistan, have been severely affected, and often undermined,

as community and tribal leaders are targeted by elements of the armed opposition.

Other civilian actors, such as humanitarian and construction workers, have also

become victims of AGE activities, including through threats, abductions, and killings.

The Taliban frequently took advantage of Pashtunwali (the traditional code of

honour), particularly in the southern regions of Afghanistan, where the traditions of

hospitality oblige the host to provide shelter and food to guests. In some cases,

insurgents have intentionally used civilians’ homes and civilians themselves as shields

from military attack in violation of international humanitarian law.1 As a result,

civilians are put at further risk as they are detained by pro-Government forces. Their

houses are searched and property destroyed because of their perceived support of the


Mullah Omar issued a new “code of conduct,” called “The Islamic Emirate of

Afghanistan Rules for Mujahideen,” in July for Afghan Taliban in the form of a book

with 13 chapters and 67 articles for distribution to Taliban forces. It called on Taliban

fighters to win over the civilian population and avoid civilian casualties, including by

limiting the use of suicide attacks to important targets and setting forth guidelines for

abductions. It is unclear whether any measures are in place to give effect to, or

monitor compliance with, this “code of conduct”.

The year saw a marked improvement, from the perspective of civilians, in the way

that pro-Government forces conducted military operations. The new command

structure is more transparent and streamlined, with COMISAF now heading both

ISAF and USFOR-A commands. The unclassified sections of the COMISAF General

McChrystal’s Initial Assessment to the US Secretary of Defence and in numerous

statements thereafter by COMISAF, noted that a future strategy should be based on a

population-centric approach, involve closer collaboration with the Afghan

government and community leaders, protect civilians and work to minimize civilian

casualties. However, with the expected surge of more than 30,000 troops, anticipated

Afghanistan Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009


To be completed by mid-2010, UNAMA HR remains concerned that the increase in

fighting could result in an increase in civilian casualties. Adherence to the Tactical

Directives and the counter-insurgency guidelines could, however, limit civilian

casualties even as fighting increases.

Throughout the year, President Karzai took a strong stance in favour of measures to

reduce civilian casualties.

He made this issue a defining feature of his relations with

the international community and the international military forces. In comments and

speeches, President Karzai repeatedly condemned civilian casualties and night

searches. In February, Karzai commented that he had “to campaign for an end to

civilian casualties and for an end to the arrest of Afghans….The Afghan people expect

their government to protect them and to stand for them.”2 Several Presidential

Commissions were established to investigate the killings and injury of civilians as a

result of IM forces’ operations. These Commissions need to ensure that their findings

are made public and that their recommendations are implemented by the GoA in a

timely manner.

Although, the overall proportion of civilian deaths attributed to pro-Government

forces has declined in recent times, air strikes remain a concern; they are responsible

for 61% of civilian deaths attributed to pro-Government forces in 2009.

UNAMA HR remains extremely concerned with the location of military bases in

populated areas, such as bazaars and district centres. This has the effect of increasing

the risk that civilians will be harmed when AGEs target international military bases

with IEDs, rockets, and suicide attacks. In line with international humanitarian law,

military bases should be placed outside residential and commercial areas in order to

minimize the effects of the conflict on civilians.

Despite considerable improvements in the procedures that regulate search and seizure

raids, there continues to be a high level of hostility towards these practices. Excessive

use of force, damage to property, and insensitivity towards cultural norms still

characterizes many of these raids. UNAMA HR continued to record a decline in

‘force protection incidents,’ whereby civilians were killed and injured because they

were too close to a military convoy or failed to follow instructions. This decline in

death and injury of civilians is a result of constructive amendments through directives

as well as an increased awareness amongst Afghan civilians.

There is a wide range of armed actors operating in Afghanistan. Many illegal armed

groups (IAGs) are still active, notwithstanding the Disarmament of Illegal Armed

Groups (DIAG) process. These IAGs have been implicated in a number of human

rights abuses within the context of the armed conflict. The Government has also made

efforts to recruit local forces, sometimes referred to as militia, to provide security in

particular communities. International military forces continue to support locallyorganized,

anti-insurgent militias. In both cases, accountability mechanisms to

respond to abuses by IAGs and local militias are extremely weak. There is no clear

command structure, transparency, nor apparent government responsibility to regulate

their activities.

In April 2009, the UN Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries

conducted an official visit to Afghanistan and looked at, among other issues,

“questions of accountability of non-State actors, the rights of victims to an effective

remedy and the regulatory structure for private security companies.” The Working

Afghanistan Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009


Group was in the process of preparing a report, for submission to the UN Human

Rights Council, at year- end.

Access to basic services continues to be severely disrupted in conflict-affected

regions. This includes the closure of schools, the intimidation of students, especially

girls, as well as staff. Clinics and patients were targeted for attack by AGEs and

searched by pro-Government forces, thus undermining their status as neutral civilian

objects. According to UNICEF, between January and November 2009, there were

613 recorded school-related incidents, as compared to 348 incidents recorded in 2008.

UNICEF notes that the southern regions have been particularly hard hit, as more than

70% of schools were closed in Helmand Province and more than 80% were closed in

Zabul Province.

Aid workers from NGOs and UN agencies have experienced harassment, threats,

intimidation and death during the year as a result of AGE activities. The environment

they were able to operate in became increasingly restricted as the conflict spread.

Truck convoys, often carrying food or aid supplies, were stopped. Drivers were often

beaten by AGEs; in a few cases they were abducted, and the goods burnt or looted.

Some international organisations have tragically been caught up in insurgent attacks,

such as the 25 August suicide attack in Kandahar that killed an ICRC staff member.

Women and children, and those who are vulnerable, face particular disadvantages in

the context of the problems associated with the armed conflict. Violence and related

insecurity greatly affects their ability to access essential services, such as education

and health care. Women and children are also victims of air strikes, house-raids,

suicide and IED attacks. These attacks often lead to deep psychological scars and

trauma; the prevailing situation inhibits access to, or creation of, productive and

helpful coping mechanisms.

One of the consequences of the deteriorating security situation is that many females

have been further confined to their homes. In a very conservative society, attacks on

women who, traditionally, have a limited public role, further inhibit their participation

in public life.

The conflict further impacts on women’s freedom of movement and

greatly restricts access to essential, life-saving services as well as education. In some

cases, UNAMA HR has noted that the risks inherent in the deteriorating security

situation influence whether women decide to participate in public life, particularly for

those who work in high-profile positions.

At least 345 children were killed due to conflict-related violence.

UNAMA HR has recorded numerous incidents were children have been affected as a result of attacks,

including air strikes, rocket attacks, IED and suicide attacks. UNAMA HR noted that

there have been reports of recruitment of children into armed groups. There were

several cases throughout the year of children being used to carry out suicide attacks or

to plant explosives, often resulting in their deaths as well as that of numerous


The detention and ill-treatment of minors allegedly associated with armed groups by

both the ANSF and the international military forces remained a concern. There have

been detailed reports of children detained for up to a year in government detention

facilities as well as reports that children have been held at the Bagram Theatre

Afghanistan Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009


Internment Facility (BTIF) without due process; in some cases they allegedly suffered

ill-treatment. Mohammed Jawad, aged 12 in 2002 at the time of his arrest for

allegedly throwing a hand-grenade at a US military vehicle was eventually released in

July 2009 from Guantanamo. Jawad, during his time in detention in Afghanistan and

Guantanamo, was subjected to cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment amounting to

torture according to his legal defense team. Since his release, the authorities have

failed to provide proper support for his reintegration.

Different UN and other entities continued to monitor the effects of armed conflict on

children pursuant to Security Council Resolution (SCR) 1612. A subsequent SCR,

1882, involves naming parties which are responsible for killing and maiming of

children, including those who perpetrate grave sexual violence against children in war


On 18 October, the GoA appointed a high level focal point to help address this

issue. In December, the Government committed to launch an inter-ministerial

Government Steering Committee on Children and Armed Conflict, with the objective

of developing an Action Plan for the protection of children affected by armed conflict.

UNAMA HR remains concerned about the situation of conflict-related detainees,

particularly those held by US forces and the National Directorate of Security (NDS).

There continues to be little or no information on the conditions and treatment of those

in detention, especially those held by NDS at the provincial level. NDS continues to

operate without a known legal framework that clearly defines its powers of

investigations, arrest, and detention and rules applicable to its detention facilities.

UNAMA HR continues to receive allegations that former detainees were subject to

ill-treatment, including torture, by NDS.

Many of the cases and incidents documented by UNAMA HR have not been

adequately investigated by the Government, so that only a few of the alleged

perpetrators have been brought to justice. Some of the law enforcement duties of the

police in Afghanistan have been adversely affected by other duties related to the

conflict. As ANP personnel routinely take on counter-insurgency duties – such as

establishing checkpoints to look for insurgents – their capacity to carry out

traditional duties of criminal investigation has been undermined. Therefore, thorough

investigations of conflict-related incidents often do not occur.

New procedures introduced for detainees held at BTIF, which was replaced with a

new detention facility established in Parwan Province at the Bagram Air Base in

December, could constitute the basis for a fairer process for detainees as well as

improved treatment and conditions. However, it is extremely important that all

detainees enjoy due process guarantees to which they are entitled under Afghan

domestic law and international human rights and international humanitarian law.

This year marked the tenth anniversary of the UN Security Council working on the

protection of civilians in armed conflict and the 60th anniversary of the Geneva

Conventions of 1949. According to the report of the UN Secretary-General on the

protection of civilians in armed conflict (May 2009), there is suffering “owing to the

fundamental failure of parties to conflict to fully respect and ensure respect for their

obligations to protect civilians.”

On 11 November, the Security Council had an Open Debate on the protection of civilians in armed conflict culminating in the adoption of SCR 1894 (2009). The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ms Navi Pillay, in Afghanistan Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009


Her address to the Open Debate, stressed the vital importance of redressing

grievances, ending impunity and protecting the human rights of civilians: “[T]here

continues to be an urgent need to improve overall accountability procedures,

including through criminal prosecution when warranted as redress for victims, while

bringing the legal framework governing conflict-related detention – by all who take

and hold detainees- into line with human rights law.”

The United Nations remains concerned about the high cost of the conflict on civilians.

It has repeatedly underlined, through public statements by the UNAMA SRSG, Mr

Kai Eide, that all parties should respect their obligations under international

humanitarian law and international human rights law. Actions by all parties to the

armed conflict must be transparent and accountable to ensure the least possible

adverse impact upon the civilian population. Equally, all those who perpetrate abuses

against the civilian population, in transgression of their obligations under the rules of

war and national legislation, should be held to account in a timely and transparent


Chart 1: Reported civilian casualties Jan – Dec 2009





Anti-Government Elements (1630) Pro-Government Forces (596)

Responsible party undetermined (186)

Afghanistan Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009


Chart/Table 2: Total number of civilians reported killed as a result of armed

conflict in Afghanistan, 2007, 2008, and 2009









Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec




Month 2007 2008 2009

January 50 56 141

February 45 168 149

March 104 122 129

April 85 136 128

May 147 164 271

June 253 172 236

July 218 323 198

August 138 341 333

September 155 162 336

October 80 194 162

November 160 176 165

December 88 104 164

TOTAL 1523 2118 2412

Afghanistan Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009



AGEs and Civilian Casualties

AGE activities have taken the heaviest toll on civilians. Civilian deaths reportedly

caused by anti-Government elements totaled 1,630 in 2009; this represents an increase

of 41% from 2008 and accounts for 67% of the total number of civilian deaths in


Suicide and other attacks involving IEDs continued to claim the most civilian lives in

2009 with an overall toll of 1,054 killed. 225 civilians were killed as a result of

targeted assassinations and executions. Together, these tactics accounted for over 78%

of the civilian deaths attributed to AGE actions. The remainder of AGE-inflicted

casualties resulted primarily from rocket attacks and from ground engagements in

which civilian bystanders were directly affected.

Chart 3: Civilian Deaths Attributed to AGEs disaggregated by incident type




22% IED Attacks (773)

Suicide Attacks (281)

Executions and

Assassinations (225)

Other AGE Tactics (351)

Afghanistan Annual Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 2009


Chart 4: Civilian Deaths Attributed to AGEs – 2007, 2008, 2009









Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec




Suicide and IED attacks

IEDs and suicide attacks accounted for more civilian casualties than any other tactic,

and the number of civilians killed increased dramatically since 2008 by 45%. IEDs

planted by AGEs accounted for 773 civilian deaths (47% of all civilians killed by

AGEs) and suicide attacks accounted for 281 civilian deaths (17% of all civilians

killed by AGEs) in 2009.

Since the intensification of the insurgency in 2006, there has been a gradual but

continual shift by AGEs towards the use of asymmetric attacks, such as IEDs and

suicide attacks. Too often, these attacks are carried out in a manner that fails to

discriminate between civilians and military targets or to take adequate precautions to

prevent civilian casualties. Thus, they have an impact far beyond their initial target.

August and September proved to be the year’s most deadly periods of insurgent

activity, with the detonation of multiple SVBIEDs (car and truck bombs).

• On 15 August, seven civilians were reportedly killed and at least 90 injured in a

suicide bomb blast outside ISAF HQ in Kabul;

• On 18 August, seven people were reportedly killed and at least 50 injured in an

SVBIED attack near Camp Phoenix on the Jalalabad Road in Kabul. In this

explosion, two UN staff members were killed and one injured; and

• On 25 August, at least 46 civilians were allegedly killed and more than 60 injured

when a truck bomb exploded in a commercial and residential area of Kandahar

city. The explosion destroyed several commercial buildings and left a large

number of families homeless. It is understood that the SVBIED exploded

prematurely before reaching its intended target, apparently the National

Directorate of Security. While the Taliban issued a statement denying

involvement in the incident, no other local actor is known to use car bombs of this



In September, a number of SVBIED attacks resulted in 24 civilians killed and 52

injured: on 17 September, an attack on an ISAF convoy on the road to the Kabul

International Airport, allegedly killed 20 civilians and injured 45 others. The Taliban

acknowledged responsibility. On 8 and 9 September respectively attacks against the

front gates of the ISAF military airport at Kabul International Airport and an attack in

front of Camp Bastion in Helmand reportedly resulted in the death of four civilians

and seven injured.

Although the vast majority of suicide attacks target ANSF or IM forces, their use in

residential areas means that, frequently, civilians are the victims of such attacks.

Moreover it is of great concern that AGEs frequently feign civilian status while

conducting suicide and other attacks, making it difficult for pro-Government forces to

distinguish between civilians and fighters.3

Twin explosions leading to civilian casualties in Khost

On 22 June, at least 10 civilians died and 41 were injured as a result of two

explosions in Khost city. Reportedly, among the casualties, at least two children,

between 9 and 17 years, were killed and at least 11 children were injured. The

incident occurred around one o’clock between a GoA department and a Mosque,

close to the market area. The first blast, near to the GoA department, resulted from a

hand grenade, attracting a crowd of people, and was followed shortly afterward by a

second explosion. The authorities believe that the attack was conducted by the

Haqqani network.

AGEs have also undertaken a number of “complex attacks” involving multiple, well

coordinated teams, including individuals equipped as suicide bombers and others

armed with a range of weapons, including grenades. These frequently target

government buildings where civilians are often present. Three complex attacks carried

out in Gardez and Jalalabad on 21 July, and in Khost on 25 July on government and

security forces’ installations, reveal well-planned and sophisticated operations. On 28

October, a complex attack was launched against a guest house in Kabul, resulting in

the deaths of eight civilians, including five UN personnel and injury to at least nine

others. The attack was well organized and executed, and included the use of multiple

suicide bombers, hand grenades, and small-arms fire. Although, the Taliban claimed

responsibility for the attack, it appears to have been carried out by members of the

Haqqani network.


Complex attack against multiple government buildings in Kabul

The coordinated attack against the Ministry of Justice Central Prison Directorate

HQ, the Ministry of Education and NDS in Kabul on 11 February resulted in at least

21 civilians killed, including 13 staff from the Ministry of Justice. At least 14 staff

from the MoJ was injured. In this incident, UNAMA HR received reports that several

of the civilians were deliberately singled out for attack and shot, despite clearly being

non-combatants. In a statement, the Taliban claimed the attack was in retaliation for

the mistreatment of detainees in Afghan detention facilities, the execution of several

Taliban members in November 2008, and the shooting of a number of Taliban during

an operation in the Pul-i-Charkhi Prison in December 2008.

Attacks against NDS officials and facilities by AGEs were often disproportionate to

the intended target, resulting in the deaths and injury of numerous civilians.

The Deputy Head of NDS targeted by an SVBIED

On 2 September, an SVBIED attack in Laghman Province targeted and killed the

Deputy Head of NDS, and four other NDS staff, as they were exiting a meeting at the

Central City Mosque, in Mehterlam City in Laghman Province. The Mosque is

situated near a busy bazaar. As a result, the explosion reportedly killed 18 civilians

and injured 61 others, including women and children. The Taliban claimed

responsibility for the attack. Following an investigation, four people were

subsequently arrested by the provincial authorities. On 31 December, around 1000-

1200 people demonstrated in the city calling for the government impose the harshest

sentence against the accused.

IEDs were used more often than any other AGE tactic. Their use was often systematic

and indiscriminate resulting in high casualty rates, particularly in the south and south

east regions. In Khost Province, a trend of using magnetic IEDs that adhere to the

outside of a vehicle was detected, particularly in a string of attacks in June that

resulted in three civilians killed and injury to numerous others. In a press statement,

the Deputy Special Representative of Secretary General (DSRSG), UNAMA,

condemned the indiscriminate use of IEDs in Maywand district of Kandahar during

the month of September and appealed to those responsible to desist from such actions.

Civilian vehicles using an alternative route to the main highway, because damage to

the main road had made it unusable, were struck by IEDs, killing a total of some 37

civilians and injuring at least 18 others, including women and children. This included

a 29 September incident when at least 30 civilians were reportedly killed and 19

injured when their bus struck an IED.

AGEs have also perpetrated IED and suicide attacks in residential areas. As noted in a

recent report by a consortium of NGOs,4 the indiscriminate use of IEDs, particularly

in residential areas, caused civilians to experience feelings of trauma. The same study

found that “there was a clear link between fear and anxiety, and insecurity associated

with the current conflict.” These effects can be long lasting, creating a climate of fear

and often result in reduced mobility and restricted access to basic services by the



Assassinations, Threats and Intimidation

UNAMA HR recorded 225 reported assassinations and executions by AGEs. Armed

opposition groups have continued to show a great willingness to systematically target

civilians through threats, intimidatory tactics, abductions and executions; in some

cases by beheadings and hanging.

Persons were most often assassinated or executed due to AGE suspicions that the

targeted individuals had acted as informants or “spies” for the GoA or IM forces; for

working with the IM forces as interpreters, truck drivers or security guards at military

bases; for actively supporting the Government; or for belonging to the ANSF. The

majority of assassinations took place in the south, southeast and central regions of


There are a number of ways in which AGEs identified their targets. It was not

uncommon for road blocks and checkpoints to be established by armed groups in

order to search cars for civilians carrying identity papers which indicated where

individuals work. Civilians were harassed as a consequence and, in a few cases, were

killed. These searches have taken place in the south, southeast, west, central and east

of the country. “Night letters” were used to warn entire communities against engaging

in particular activities and to threaten specific individuals. Many such letters warned

people that failure to stop working with the government or the international

community would lead to “retribution”.

Such threats create a climate of fear and intimidation. In cases documented by UNAMA HR, individuals who had been abducted and killed were sometimes found with a letter attached to their body as a warning to others. These tactics point to a systematic campaign to intimidate and

undermine support for the government and international forces in Afghanistan. These

campaigns of intimidation can oblige individuals and entire communities to alter or

restrict their usual activities, giving rise to untold hardship, including loss of income.

Distribution of leaflets by AGEs in Farah Province

On 17 June, a number of leaflets were found distributed around the mosques in Farah

town threatening people not to work either for the government or the international