The UN says American drone strikes have killed many more Afghan civilians in 2012 than in the previous year. It comes as the US stepped up the use of drones as it prepares to leave war-torn Afghanistan by 2014.
According to a report by the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) unmanned aerial aircraft fired 506 times in 2012, killing 16 civilians and wounding three. In 2011, 294 weapons were launched, resulting in just one casualty.
The UNAMA called for a review of tactical and operational policy on targeting, as most of the civilian casualties resulted from weapons aimed directly at insurgents, with some targeting errors. It cited an incident where four boys were killed October 20 in Logar province when a drone struck after a clash between pro-government forces and insurgents a few kilometers away from the area.
Most of the covert drone operations have been carried out in Pakistan to fight insurgents in northwestern areas of the country, seriously deteriorating relations between Washington and Islamabad. Now, the US appears to be stepping up the use of unmanned aerial aircraft in Afghanistan.
Georgette Gagnon, the head of human rights for UNAMA, said it was the first year the UN had tried to document civilian casualties from drones.
Meanwhile, the full-year toll of civilian deaths in Afghanistan in 2012 declined to 2,754, a 12 percent decrease from 3,131 in the same period a year earlier, according to the annual report on civilian casualties released by the UN on Tuesday. It stated that the Taliban and other insurgents were responsible for 81 percent of the civilian casualties last year.