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U.N.: Civilian casualties in Afghanistan reach record levels

Civilian casualties caused by Afghan government forces and allies rose by 60 percent.

By Andrew V. Pestano
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There has been a steady rise in civilian casualties, those killed or wounded, since the U.N. began compiling comprehensive casualty reports of the conflict in Afghanistan since 2009, when the total amount of civilians casualties was 1,439. File Photo by UPI | <a href="/News_Photos/lp/4b4ce584af7f3a6e84a4cd36102a678e/" target="_blank">License Photo</a>
There has been a steady rise in civilian casualties, those killed or wounded, since the U.N. began compiling comprehensive casualty reports of the conflict in Afghanistan since 2009, when the total amount of civilians casualties was 1,439. File Photo by UPI | License Photo

KABUL, Afghanistan, Aug. 5 (UPI) -- The number of women and children killed or injured through the year in Afghanistan increased by 23 percent and 13 percent, respectively, as overall casualties reached record levels.

There have been 4,921 civilian casualties -- 1,592 civilians killed and 3,329 wounded -- in Afghanistan from January until June, a one percent increase over last year's record, according to a report by the United Nations released Wednesday.

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There has been a steady rise in civilian casualties, those killed or wounded, since the U.N. began compiling comprehensive casualty reports since 2009, when the total amount of civilians casualties in Afghanistan was 1,439.

Overall civilian casualties this year are expected to equal or exceed those in 2014.

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This year, about 90 percent of civilian casualties occurred from ground engagements, improvised explosive devices, targeted killings, suicide attacks and complex attacks -- assaults conducted by multiple hostile elements that use at least two distinct classes of weaponry.

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"I was walking down the street when a suicide bomber attacked customers lined up to enter the New Kabul Bank. I remember seeing the blast and the fire, and was knocked to the ground," a teacher who survived an attack that killed 32 people in the city of Jalalabad in April told the U.N. "I had wounds on my face and stomach and my legs were bleeding. When I tried to stand, I could not get up. That is when I noticed all the blood, the human limbs, the corpses, and the other wounded people all over the street. It was terrible."

Anti-government elements, such as the Taliban, were responsible for about 70 percent of civilian casualties -- 3,436 -- about a one percent decrease from last year.

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Pro-government forces were responsible for about 16 percent of civilian casualties, a 60 percent increase from last year. Afghan National Security Forces and pro-government militias are responsible for 15 percent of that total, and international military forces, including the United States, are responsible for the remaining one percent.

Fighting that could not be specifically attributed to the one of the warring factions accounted for about 10 percent of civilian casualties, while "unattributed explosive remnants of war" caused the remaining four percent, according to the U.N.

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"The rise in the numbers of women and children killed and maimed from conflict-related violence is particularly disturbing," Danielle Bell, United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) director of human rights, said in a statement. "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. When the conflict kills or maims a mother, child, sister or brother, the repercussions for families and communities are devastating and long-lasting."

The U.N. compels the warring parties to make efforts to protect civilians from harm, urging anti-government elements to cease "indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks" on civilians and pro-government forces to "cease firing mortars, rockets and grenades into civilian-populated areas."

"Afghan civilians have suffered far too long from this destructive conflict," Nicholas Haysom, head of UNAMA, said in a statement, adding that "peace is urgently needed."

"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 said.

The U.N. also urges the government to "disband and disarm all armed groups and militia, and ensure accountability for those members of armed groups who carry out human rights abuses."

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