ISLAMABAD, PAKISTAN - Military operations against the Taliban in southern Afghanistan killed up to 25 civilians and injured 17 others this week, according to preliminary findings from the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan.
The casualties occurred in Garmser and Nad-e-Ali districts of Helmand province and involved mostly women and children, according to a statement by UNAMA.
"The Mission is actively working to verify information indicating up to 10 children were killed along with eight women, and three children were injured, including an eight-year-old boy," UNAMA noted.
The statement said Afghan forces and their foreign partners were carrying out an operation against the Taliban in Garmser on Tuesday when international forces conducted an airstrike, killing up to 23 civilians.
Provincial authorities provided different figures, telling reporters on Wednesday the air raids in Garmser were carried out by the U.S. military and killed 30 civilians along with 16 Taliban fighters.
Elsewhere in Helmand, explosive ordnance struck civilian homes during fighting between Taliban insurgents and Afghan forces a few days earlier, killing two civilians and injuring at least 14 others, including 10 children. The U.N. says those clashes occurred in the Nad-e-Ali district.
The clashes erupted after insurgents reportedly entrenched in the vicinity of civilian homes initiated an attack against an Afghan National Army convoy.
Regarding the two incidents, UNAMA expressed particular concern about the number of children that were disproportionately impacted, comprising 55 percent of the civilian casualties.
UNAMA said aerial attacks in Afghanistan in the first nine months of this year have caused nearly 650 civilian casualties, including 313 deaths. The figure includes the highest number of civilian casualties from aerial operations documented by UNAMA since 2009.
The world body reiterated its call for all Afghan warring sides to uphold their obligations and take urgent steps to protect civilians from harm.
The conflict in Afghanistan caused more than 8,000 civilian casualties, including 2,738 deaths, between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30 in 2018, according to UNAMA.
Hostilities have since intensified and observers anticipate overall civilian casualties for the entire year will be at an all-time high in the 17-year war.
The United States has renewed efforts for a negotiated settlement to the conflict with the Taliban, which has taken over half of Afghanistan in recent years. The Taliban considers the United States its main adversary and dismisses the government in Kabul as an American puppet.