KABUL, Afghanistan – Two separate roadside bombs killed five NATO soldiers in eastern Afghanistan Friday, a bloody start to the month in an already deadly year for U.S. and NATO forces in the country.
A Taliban-led insurgency is raging in Afghanistan nearly seven years after the fundamentalist Muslim regime was ousted in a U.S.-led invasion. An Associated Press count based on accounts from Afghan and Western officials indicates that more than 2,700 people — most of them militants — have died in insurgency-related violence this year.
The insurgency is particularly strong in Afghanistan's south and east. But a statement Friday by the Agency Coordinating Body for Afghan Relief noted that violence is now reaching other provinces, even those bordering the capital, Kabul, such as Logar and Wardak.
"Insecurity has spread to areas which were previously relatively stable in parts of north, northwest and central Afghanistan," it said.
Drawing on other recent reports, it said "aid organizations and their staff have been subject to increasing attacks, threats and intimidation by both insurgent and criminal groups."
It cited a group that advises aid agencies on security that recently reported there were 2,056 insurgent attacks in the six months through June, a 52 percent increase from the same period of 2007. The report from the Afghanistan NGO Safety Office also said that 19 aid workers have been killed so far this year, compared to 15 in all of 2007.
ACBAR said initial estimates suggest more than 260 civilians were killed in July alone, higher than any other month in the last six years.
The statement also said that in the south, violence has forced the closure of a large number of schools and health facilities, and "has caused significant levels of internal displacement."
It noted that parts of Afghanistan are experiencing "severe drought" and that food prices are rising as well, adding to the hardships of an already impoverished population.
"Increasing and spreading insecurity is jeopardizing the delivery of essential humanitarian assistance to these people and threatening their lives and livelihoods," the statement said.
The groups involved in ACBAR also expressed concern about the impact of violence on civilians, and noted that airstrikes by international forces were adding to the civilian casualty toll.
"Coalition forces make every effort to minimize the risk of any damage, injury or loss of life to noncombatants," U.S. military spokesman 1st Lt. Nathan Perry responded Friday.