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Volume 403: debated on Monday 10 March 2003

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To ask the Secretary of State for International Development what estimate she has made of the number of civilian deaths which occurred (a) directly and (b) indirectly as a result of military action in Afghanistan since 11 September 2001. [101023]

It is impossible to know for certain how many casualties, either military or civilian, there have been as a result of coalition action in Afghanistan. The Taliban's claims of casualties cannot be taken at face value.

Military action inevitably carries risks, but as my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State has made clear in the House, our targeting and weapons selection processes are rigorous. Every effort is made to avoid civilian casualties.