Afghan civilian deaths hit new high: UN

EDITORS NOTE: Graphic content / (FILES) This file photo taken on May 31, 2017 shows the bodies of Afghan victims of a car bomb attack loaded in the back of a police vehicle at a hospital in Kabul. Civilian deaths in Afghanistan hit a record high in the first half of 2017, with 1,663 killed and more than 3,500 injured, the United Nations said July 17. (AFP)
Updated 17 July 2017
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Afghan civilian deaths hit new high: UN

KABUL: Civilian deaths in Afghanistan hit a new high in the first half of 2017 with 1,662 killed and more than 3,500 injured, the United Nations said Monday.
Deaths in the capital Kabul accounted for nearly 20 percent of the toll, according to the report by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), which has been documenting civilian casualties in the war-torn country since 2009.
The majority of the victims were killed by anti-government forces -- including the Taliban and in attacks claimed by the Islamic State, the report said.
The first six months of the year has seen a significant rise in the number of civilian lives lost in highly coordinated attacks involving more than one perpetrator, with 259 killed and 892 injured -- a 15 percent increase on the same period last year.
Many of those deaths happened in a single attack in Kabul in late May when a truck bomb exploded during the morning rush hour, killing more than 150 people and injuring hundreds. UNAMA put the civilian death toll at 92, saying it was the deadliest incident to hit the country since 2001.
The UN's special envoy to Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto said the human cost of the conflict remains "far too high".
"The continued use of indiscriminate, disproportionate and illegal improvised explosive devices is particularly appalling and must immediately stop," he added in a statement.
Women and children have borne the brunt of the increase in civilian casualties, with UNAMA blaming the use of IEDs and aerial operations in populated areas for the jump.
A total of 174 women were killed and 462 injured -- an overall rise in casualties of 23 percent on last year -- while 436 children were killed in the same period, representing a nine percent increase.
Nearly half of Afghanistan's 34 provinces have seen an increase in civilian deaths in the first six months of the year, mainly due to the rise in attacks by anti-government forces.
The ground offensives by Afghan security forces are the second leading cause of civilian casualties, though UNAMA said there had been a 10 percent decrease compared to the same period in 2016.
According to the UN's figures, more than 26,500 civilians have died and nearly 49,000 injured as a result of armed conflict in Afghanistan since January 2009.


Indian court finds spiritual guru guilty of raping devotee

Updated 25 April 2018
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Indian court finds spiritual guru guilty of raping devotee

NEW DELHI: An Indian court on Wednesday found a high-profile spiritual guru Asaram Bapu guilty of raping a teenage female devotee in 2013 and he faces a maximum of life in prison.
The verdict against 77-year-old Bapu was read out inside a prison in the city of Jodhpur in Rajasthan state because of fears that his followers may resort to violence.
The case is the latest in a series of high-profile rape cases in India that have fueled public protests and raised questions about how police handle the cases and treat the victims.
In August last year, another popular and flamboyant Indian spiritual guru, Dr. Saint Gurmeet Singh Ram Rahim Insan, was sentenced to 20 years in prison on charges of raping two female followers.
Judge Madhusudhan Sharma will announce the prison term for Bapu later after hearing arguments from the prosecution and Bapu’s attorneys.
Bapu has denied the rape and can appeal his conviction in a higher court.
The girl in her complaint to the police in 2013 accused Bapu of raping her when she visited his retreat in Jodhpur with her mother. The girl’s family said they had been followers of Bapu for more than a decade.
Bapu has been in prison since his arrest in the case in 2013.
On Wednesday, security was tight around the prison complex and in states where the self-styled guru has a considerable following.
Religious sects also wield considerable political clout in India with several politicians as followers. Asaram is also on trial along with his son Narayan Sai in a separate rape case where two sisters have accused the two men of sexual assault.