Afghanistan civilian deaths drop for first time in six years

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KABUL, Afghanistan — Civilian deaths in the war in Afghanistan dropped in 2012 for the first time in six years, a sign of lessening hostilities, but insurgents dramatically expanded their campaign of assassinating government supporters, the United Nations said Tuesday.

The annual U.N. report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan showed a 12 percent decline in deaths, largely because of fewer ground operations, new limits on airstrikes by U.S.-led coalition forces and fewer suicide bombings by insurgents. Coalition operations resulted in 39 percent fewer civilian deaths, the report said.

In all, 2,754 civilians died in the war last year, bringing the toll to 14,728 since 2007, when the U.N. began tracking civilian casualties.

The report said that targeted killings — attacks against government employees, tribal and religious leaders, and Afghans involved in peace efforts — caused more than twice as many deaths and injuries in 2012 as in 2011.

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