New high in Afghan deaths
Kabul - Rising violence ahead of Afghanistan's disputed presidential election made August the deadliest month of the year for civilians, the UN said, warning in a new report that attacks could spike again when the final vote results are announced.
A total of 1 500 civilians died in Afghanistan from January through August, according to the report released late Friday. About three-quarters of the deaths were blamed on militants. The UN report did not specify the August death toll, but said the month was the deadliest of the year as the Taliban stepped up an intimidation campaign to discourage Afghans from voting in the August 20 election.
The UN said coalition forces were to blame for about a quarter of civilian deaths in 2009 - most of them in airstrikes. The top Nato commander, US General Stanley McChrystal, has made protecting Afghan civilians a top priority.
An Associated Press count found a total of 174 civilians were killed in August, 165 of them at the hands of militants. The deadliest attack of the month was an August 25 truck bomb in the southern city of Kandahar that killed 43 people.