Red Cross — War spreading cross Afghanistan

Associated Press

KABUL, Afghanistan — The war in Afghanistan is spreading across the country, forcing thousands of people to flee their homes this year, the international Red Cross said Tuesday during the visit of its president.

"There is growing insecurity and a clear intensification of the armed conflict, which is no longer limited to the south but has spread to the east and west," Jakob Kellenberger, president of the International Committee of the Red Cross, said in a statement.

The U.N. has said that more than 8,000 people, mostly militants, were killed in 2007, the deadliest year in Afghanistan since the 2001 ouster of the Taliban from power by a U.S.-led coalition. At least 1,500 civilians were among the dead last year.

At least 13,000 people have fled their homes since January because of the conflict, the Red Cross says. A spokeswoman said tracking where the people have gone is difficult because of limited access to dangerous regions.


"Their growing humanitarian needs and those of other vulnerable people must be met as a matter of urgency," Kellenberger said.

During his stay in the country, Kellenberger plans to visit the U.S. military prison at Bagram airfield, the main American military installation in the country.

Human rights groups accuse the U.S. military of holding prisoners without charge at facilities like Bagram, in some cases for more than five years.

Kellenberger said the more than 600 prisoners held at Bagram should have their cases handled "within an appropriate legal framework," the statement said.

"We see the need for more robust procedural safeguards in Bagram, where to this day most detainees live in uncertainty about their fate," Kellenberger said.

The Red Cross and the U.S. military set up a video conferencing system this year that allows Bagram prisoners to speak with and see family members, the only outside contact the prisoners are allowed to have.

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