Insurgent attacks on Afghan government employees soared by a staggering 700% last year even as the overall civilian death toll from the war fell for the first time in six years, the UN said on Tuesday.
Targeted killings of women in government service by Taliban-led insurgents were "particularly disturbing", the UN mission in Afghanistan said in its annual report on civilian casualties.
A total of 2,754 civilians died in the conflict last year, a 12% drop from 2011, taking the toll over the past six years to 14,728, the report said.
"While the overall incidence of civilian casualties decreased in 2012, anti-government elements increasingly targeted civilians throughout the country and carried out attacks without regard for human life," it said.
Civilian casualties among perceived government supporters, including government employees, religious leaders, tribal elders and people involved in peace efforts rose 108% to 1,077.
"Of these, killings and injuries to civilian government employees increased by a staggering 700%," the report said.
"Particularly disturbing were targeted killings of women by anti-government elements demonstrated by the killings of the head and deputy head of the Laghman Department of Women's Affairs in July and December 2012."
Overall, insurgents were responsible for 81% of civilian casualties, while 8% were caused by Afghan and NATO forces. The other 11% could not be attributed to either party.
Efforts to reduce civilian casualties caused by pro-government forces, including NATO air strikes, led to a drop of more than 40% over the previous year, the report said.
This statistic will be welcomed by the NATO military leadership in Afghanistan, which is regularly under fire from President Hamid Karzai over civilians killed by air strikes.
Karzai ordered an end to Afghan security forces calling in NATO air strikes after the deaths of 10 civilians in an attack last week.
Civilian casualty figures for the first half of 2012, published in August, showed a 15% fall on the same period in 2011.