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Civilian Casualties From Afghan Fighting Rise

Afghan security personnel gather at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, April, 10, 2015.
Afghan security personnel gather at the site of a suicide attack in Kabul, Afghanistan, April, 10, 2015.

The United Nations said civilian casualties from ground fighting in Afghanistan rose by 8 percent in the first three months of this year compared to the same period in 2014, and the world body urged all parties to adhere to their commitments to ensure safety of civilians.

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said fighting between Afghan security forces and Taliban insurgents killed136 people and wounded 385 in the first quarter of 2015.

The latest figures, released Sunday, show a 43 percent rise in civilian casualties from mortars and rockets. But the UNAMA report noted total civilian casualties declined by 2 percent, to 655 dead and 1,155 wounded, compared to the same period last year.

It said Taliban insurgents are responsible for 73 percent of the total civilian casualties, with government forces responsible for 14 percent. The report attributed 7 percent of the civilian deaths and injuries to both parties, while it could not attribute the remaining 6 percent to any party to the conflict.

UNAMA chief Nicolas Haysom emphasized the need to refrain from using mortars and rockets in areas populated by civilians.

While reacting to the U.N. findings, Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman Sediq Sediqi told VOA the protection of civilians is a top priority for national security forces while they conduct counter-insurgency operations.

“The Afghan forces, they pay a lot of attention to prevent civilian casualties. For example whenever we conduct and plan any operation, first of all what comes to our mind is to how to secure civilians, how to make sure that any measure we take during our operation that ends to safety of public and civilians," Sediqi said. "But in many cases during the fighting Taliban use civilian houses and homes as best shields.”

UNAMA said the Afghan war continues to take a growing toll on women and children. In the first three months of the year, child casualties rose to a record 123 deaths and 307 injuries.

UNAMA said parties to the conflict should act urgently on the commitments they have made to prevent harm to civilians, especially woman and children.

More than 10,000 Afghan civilian casualties were recorded last year, the deadliest since the United Nations began keeping records in 2009.