Afghan President demands end of civilian killings by UN forces

Hamid KarzaiKabul - Afghan President Hamid Karzai on Tuesday asked the United Nations Security Council to put an end to civilian casualties caused by UN-mandated international forces, the Afghan presidential palace reported.

Karzai, who has pleaded with NATO to avoid civilian deaths during their anti-terrorism operations in Afghanistan, repeated his frustration in a meeting with UN Security Council representatives in his presidential palace in Kabul, Karzai's office said in a statement.

"The president asked the UN Security Council members to put an end on bombardments, house searching and unnecessary detention of Afghans by international forces in the country," the statement said.

Representatives of 14 members of the Security Council arrived in Kabul Monday for a three-day visit to assess Afghanistan's progress in peace building, reconstruction, security and governance.

The delegation is headed by Giulio Terzi, Italy's ambassador to the Security Council. The team also met with several Afghan governmental officials and members of parliament.

The visit comes amid widespread Afghan frustration with NATO forces, who have been blamed for mounting civilian casualties during anti-insurgent operations. The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) operates under the UN Security Council's mandate.

Karzai warned that his country and the international communities would not succeed in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan "if instead of targeting safe havens of terrorism, their support and training centers, they target the villages of Afghanistan."

Karzai and NATO-led commanders have repeatedly claimed that Taliban militants have turned Pakistani tribal areas into sanctuaries, from which the Taliban coordinates and plan attacks on Afghan and international forces inside Afghanistan.

Afghan and NATO officials also blame Pakistan for not doing enough to clamp down on militants along the border with Afghanistan. Islamabad vehemently denies these assertions and says it has deployed around 100,000 forces to stop cross-border infiltrations and contain the insurgency in the area.

Taliban militants, who were ousted from power in late 2001 in the US-led military invasion, have steadily gained power, mainly in Afghanistan's southern and eastern regions.

The militants have intensified their attacks in recent months and extended their control to the borders of the capital, Kabul.

In his meeting on Tuesday, Karzai also demanded that the international community should set a timeline for elimination of terrorism and ending the war in Afghanistan. If not timeline is set, he threatened to enter into unilateral peace negotiations with the Taliban.

Last week Karzai asked Taliban fugitive leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, to negotiate, assuring him that the Afghan government would give him safe passage to peace talks.

But Taliban spokesmen rejected the call for peace and said that the Taliban would continue their war until some 70,000 international troops are expelled from the country.

Meanwhile, fights with insurgents continued in several parts of the country, military sources said Tuesday.

Coalition forces killed six armed militants and detained 12 others during operations Monday in the north-eastern province of Kapisa and south-eastern Paktika province, the US military said in a statement. The operations targeted militants loyal to Hizb-e-Islami and Haqqani networks, two groups associated with Taliban militants.

Taliban fighters killed four construction company workers in Musa Qala district of southern Helmand province on Sunday, Afghan defence ministry reported Tuesday.

The statement said that three other workers were wounded when the militants opened fire as they were working on a construction site.

Taliban spokesmen did not comment on the incident.

More than 4,000 people - mostly insurgents - have been killed in military engagements so far this year in Afghanistan, according to figures provided by Afghan and international military sources. (dpa)