Afghan civilian deaths increased 11% in 2018

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Afghan civilian deaths increased 11% in 2018
Richard Bennett, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) Human Rights Director holds a copy of the U.N. 2018 Annual Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Afghanistan, during a press conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Feb. 24, 2019. The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said 10,993 civilians were killed or wounded last year, the highest number since the international organization began tallying figures in 2009. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

Kabul: Civilian deaths in Afghanistan in 2018 increased by 11 per cent compared to 2017, reaching the highest level since 2009, a UN agency said in a study released on Sunday.

The annual UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report on civilian casualties in Afghanistan found that 3,804 civilians were killed in 2018 compared to 3,440 in 2017, reports Efe news.

In 2018, it documented 10,993 civilian casualties – 3,804 deaths and 7,189 injured – a 5 per cent increase in overall casualties compared to 2017.

“The level of harm and suffering inflicted on civilians in Afghanistan is deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, head of UNAMA, in the report released online.

The key factors behind the increase were “a spike” in suicide attacks by militants and an increase in harm to civilians by aerial and search operations by Afghan and international forces, it said.

Former Afghan cabinet Minister Ismail Khan, speaks during an interview with the Associated Press in Herat province, western of, Afghanistan, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. A powerful political leader, who was previously tapped by some to lead Afghanistan’s negotiating team with the Taliban, warned Afghanistan’s president Wednesday against squandering an opportunity to find a peaceful settlement to the country’s latest war that is now into its 18th year. (AP Photo/Rahmat Gul)

UNAMA attributed 63 per cent of the civilian casualties to militants (37 per cent to Taliban, 20 per cent to Islamic State and 6 per cent to undetermined extremists) and 24 per cent to pro-government forces (14 per cent to Afghan, 6 per cent to foreign troops, 4 per cent to pro-government armed groups). Thirteen per cent were not attributed to either side.

In 2018, Taliban caused 4,072 civilian casualties (1,348 deaths and 2,724 injured), 7 per cent down from 2017.

The IS caused 2,181 civilian casualties (681 deaths and 1,500 injured), an increase of 118 per cent compared to 2017, mostly in suicide attacks.

The report said anti-government elements’ use of IEDs in both suicide and non-suicide attacks reached “extreme levels” and remained the leading cause of civilian casualties in 2018, accounting for 42 percent of the total.

Militants in 2018 carried out 65 suicide and complex attacks, almost half of them in Kabul.

The Taliban’s use of indirect weapons systems and IEDs which have indiscriminate effects, remained a source of concern for UNAMA. Deliberate targeting of civilians by Taliban, nearly doubled from 865 civilian casualties in 2017 to 1,688 in 2018, it said.

Child deaths were one of the concerns for UNAMA in 2018. It recorded 927 children killed in 2018, the highest since 2009, mainly due to the more than doubling of child deaths from aerial operations, as well as an increase in child fatalities from suicide attacks.

“The fact that the number of children killed this year is the highest on record, is particularly shocking” said UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet in the report.

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