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UN: Afghan Civilian Deaths to Equal, Exceed Record

  • Peter Cobus
  • Ayaz Gul

FILE - A woman mourns as she looks for her relatives at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 27, 2014.

FILE - A woman mourns as she looks for her relatives at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, Nov. 27, 2014.

Civilian casualties of the armed conflict in Afghanistan this year are projected to equal or exceed the country's deadliest year on record, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) announced Wednesday in Kabul.

According to UNAMA's 2015 Midyear Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, 4,921 civilian casualties were documented in the first half of 2015.

The 1,592 deaths and 3,329 injuries represent a 1 percent increase in total civilian casualties compared to the same period in 2014, the deadliest year for Afghan civilians on record.

Casualty causes

About 90 percent of civilian casualties resulted from intensified ground engagement between Afghan security forces and insurgents, including "improvised explosive devices, complex and suicide attacks, and targeted killings," the report said.

It attributed 70 percent of civilian casualties to anti-government forces, a slight decrease from 2014. Targeted killings of civilians perceived to be supporting the government were the leading cause of death.

However, the Taliban rejected claims made in the report.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid, in a statement sent to VOA and other media outlets, said the UNAMA report was “partial and not based on facts.”

Mujahid insisted the findings of the report should have been shared with the Taliban before being made public to include the insurgent group’s reservations and stance on the civilian casualties.

Civilian deaths and injuries caused by pro-government forces represented 16 percent of total civilian casualties — 15 percent attributed to Afghan National Security Forces and pro-government militias, and 1 percent attributed to NATO and U.S. forces.

The casualties from pro-government forces represent a 60 percent increase over the same period last year.

“Afghan civilians have suffered far too long from this destructive conflict," UNAMA chief Nicholas Haysom said. “Until peace is achieved, all parties to the conflict must fulfill their obligations under international humanitarian law to minimize the impact of the conflict on civilians and match their public statements on the protection of civilians with concrete actions.”

Haysom added that although civilian casualties resulting from pro-government forces' actions are a small part of the total, their proportion has increased mainly from ground engagements with insurgents.

Women, children

Prepared in coordination with the office of United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCR), the report also showed a 23 percent increase in women civilian casualties and a 13 percent increase in child casualties.

“The rise in the numbers of women and children killed and maimed from conflict-related violence is particularly disturbing,” said Danielle Bell, UNAMA Director of Human Rights.

“This year, UNAMA recorded the highest number of children and women casualties compared to the same period in previous years. All parties to the conflict must undertake stronger measures to protect civilians from harm," Bell said.

"When the conflict kills or maims a mother, child, sister or brother, the repercussions for families and communities are devastating and long-lasting," she added.

Perils of daily life

As the nearly 14 year long war continues, daily life for many Afghan’s remains fraught with peril.

“This report lays bare the heart-rending, prolonged suffering of civilians in Afghanistan, who continue to bear the brunt of the armed conflict and live in insecurity and uncertainty — whether a trip to a bank, to a tailoring class, to a court room or a wedding party, [it] may be their last,” said Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, as quoted in the report.

UNAMA's 2014 report [PDF] recorded the highest number of civilian casualties in a single year since the UN started keeping track in 2007, when civilian deaths and injuries topped 10,000.

This report was produced in collaboration with VOA's Afghanistan service.

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