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Afghan panel: Civilian deaths up in '10

KABUL, Afghanistan — Civilian war deaths in the first seven months of 2010 rose by 6 percent over the same period last year, Afghanistan's human rights commission said Sunday.

Also Sunday, the bodies of 10 members of a medical team — six Americans, two Afghans, one German and a Briton — were flown to Kabul from the northern province of Badakhshan, where they were gunned down three days ago at the end of a humanitarian mission. The Taliban claimed responsibility and accused the group of spying and seeking to convert Muslims to Christianity.

The Taliban and their allies were responsible for 68 percent of the at least 1,325 civilian deaths recorded by the Afghan Independent Human Rights Commission, the organization said in a report. Twenty-three percent were ascribed to NATO or Afghan government forces.

Responsibility for the remaining 9 percent could not be determined because they occurred in areas that were too dangerous for a thorough investigation, the commission said.

The bodies of the assassinated medical team, which included three women, were returned to Kabul aboard helicopters of the Afghan counternarcotics agency.

Officials have said the victims included team leader Tom Little, an optometrist from Delmar, New York, who had lived in Afghanistan for about 30 years, and physician Karen Woo, who gave up a job in a private clinic in London to do humanitarian work in Afghanistan.

The team was attacked while returning to Kabul after a two-week mission in the remote Parun valley of Nuristan province about 160 miles north of Kabul.

The U.S. ambassador to Afghanistan decried the killings.

"The Taliban has called this group of medical aid workers spies and proselytizers. They were no such thing. These were selfless volunteers who devoted themselves to providing free and much-needed health care to Afghans in the most remote and difficult parts of your country," Karl Eikenberry said in a statement.

In the west, a suicide car bomber killed two police officers Sunday outside Herat city when he struck their vehicle on the road, according to Raouf Ahmadi, a police spokesman. And in southern K andahar province, another police officer died when a minibus carrying officers back from training hit a bomb, provincial spokesman Zalmai Ayubi said.

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