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U.N. condemns attack on Afghan civilians

| Thursday, April 4, 2013, 9:18 p.m.

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghan officials released harrowing new details on Thursday about an attack in a western province where assailants shot everyone in their path, sending terrified people jumping from windows trying to escape the assailants who killed at least 46 civilians and security forces.

Civilians have frequently been caught up in the fighting between militants and Afghan and U.S.-led combat forces, but the U.N. condemned the attack on Wednesday, saying civilians were deliberately targeted at the courthouse and other government offices in Farah province. Two judges, six prosecutors, administration officers and cleaners working at the site were among the dead, the U.N. said.

Meanwhile, NATO reported that an American F-16 fighter jet had crashed in eastern Afghanistan, killing the U.S. pilot. The U.S.-led military coalition did not release further details about the crash.

“While the cause of the crash is under investigation, initial reporting indicates there was no insurgent activity in the area at the time of the crash,” the coalition said in a statement.

Illustrating other dangers, an airstrike by U.S.-led forces mistakenly killed four policemen and two brothers as their car was being searched at a checkpoint in eastern Afghanistan, an Afghan official said.

The strike occurred in the Deh Yak district of Ghazni province, according to district chief Fazel Ahmad Toolwak. He said NATO troops were fighting Taliban militants about six miles away, but those killed in the strike were not involved in that battle.

A NATO spokesman, U.S. Army Maj. Adam Wojack, said the international military coalition was looking into the report, adding it “takes all allegations of this type seriously.”

According to a recent U.N. report, 2,754 Afghan civilians were killed last year — down 12 percent from 3,131 killed in 2011.

But the number killed in the second half of last year rose, suggesting that Afghanistan is likely to face continued violence as the Taliban and other militants fight for control of the country as foreign forces continue their withdrawal.

The U.N. said the Taliban and other insurgents were responsible for 81 percent of the civilian deaths and injuries last year, while 8 percent were attributed to pro-government forces. The remaining civilian deaths and injuries could not be attributed to either side.

The number of casualties blamed on U.S. and allied forces decreased by 46 percent, with 316 killed and 271 wounded last year. Most were killed in U.S. and NATO airstrikes, although that number, too, dropped by nearly half last year to 126, including 51 children.

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