KABUL, Afghanistan, July 31 (UPI) -- The toll of Afghan civilians killed or harmed since December rose 23 percent, due mainly to increased explosives use, the United Nations reported.
The improvised explosive devices are used by insurgent forces, said a mid-year report on civilian protection produced by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan and released Wednesday.
The number of those killed in 2012 was down from 2011, but rose again in the first half of 2013, with 1,319 civilian deaths and 2,533 civilian injuries.
"The violent impact of the conflict on Afghan civilians marked by the return of rising civilian casualties in 2013 demands even greater commitment and further efforts by parties to the conflict to protect civilians who are increasingly being killed and injured in the crossfire," said Jan Kubis, the secretary-general's special representative and head of the U.N. mission in the country.
"The increase in the indiscriminate use of IEDs and the deliberate targeting of civilians by anti-government elements is particularly alarming and must stop."
UNAMA's director of human rights, Georgette Gagnon, said deaths and injuries to women and children increased by 38 percent in the first six months of the year, "reflecting a grim reality of the conflict today in Afghanistan."