UN concerned over recent violence in the south

KABUL, (IRIN) - The United Nations has expressed deep concern over a recent upsurge in violence in Afghanistan’s south, calling on government and US-led coalition forces to ensure the safety of civilians while battling the insurgents.
According to government officials, over 300 people have been killed this week during clashes between government forces and Taliban fighters, who have been waging a deadly battle against government and coalition forces in the war-ravaged nation.

“It is very hard to get development work out in areas in the south where there are clashes and fighting between government and anti-government forces,” Adrian Edwards, a spokesman for the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), told a briefing in the Afghan capital, Kabul, on Monday. “Where there is conflict it is clearly important that everything is done to ensure the safety of civilians.”

The UN official warned of more attacks during the year and called for greater emphasis on regional cooperation to curb the growing Talibanisation and insurgency in both Afghanistan and neighbouring Pakistan.

“The important point here is that Afghanistan’s future is this region’s future - the two are inseparable. If you don’t address this issue regionally, it is very hard to address it internally,” Edwards explained.

Meanwhile, the UN official said that they would continue their humanitarian activities in the south despite increasing insecurity and threats.

“Our staff is busy with their work in the south and so we have no plans to change things. But other UN agencies may have different conclusions,” Edwards added.

Violence blamed on the Taliban insurgents, who were toppled by US-led coalition forces in late 2001, has left many southern and eastern parts of Afghanistan off-limits to aid workers. To date over 600 lives have been lost in 2006 alone.

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