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U.N. report: Civilians killed by suicide attacks rose in 2017, decreased overall

By Sommer Brokaw
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An Afghan national army soldier fires his weapon during a military maneuver on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, on October 17. File Photo by Jawad Jalali/EPA-EFE
An Afghan national army soldier fires his weapon during a military maneuver on the outskirts of Kabul, Afghanistan, on October 17. File Photo by Jawad Jalali/EPA-EFE

Feb. 15 (UPI) -- An annual United Nations report on the Afghanistan conflict showed a decrease in overall civilian deaths in 2017, but an increase in civilian deaths from suicide and other attacks.

The 76-page report showed 10,453 civilians killed or wounded (3,453 deaths and 7,015 wounded) last year -- a 9 percent decrease compared to 2016, which was the first year-to-year decline recorded by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan since 2012. Civilian deaths alone also reduced by 2 percent.

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The report said the decrease in overall civilian casualties was due to less ground fighting.

Still, it noted, the casualties from suicide and complex attacks rose by 17 percent, including attacks in Kabul -- the highest single-year number of civilian casualties since 2009. The majority of civilian casualties -- 65 percent -- were from anti-government groups, with 42 percent attributed to the Taliban.

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"Following the announcement of [President Donald] Trump's Strategy, bombardments have increased, which definitely intensified civilian casualties compared to any other time," the report said.

In eight years of systematic documentation spanning from 2009 to 2017, the armed conflict in Afghanistan has killed more than 28,000 civilians and wounded 52,000 others.

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The report said in 2017 alone, most civilian casualties were caused by the combined use of improvised explosive devices and non-suicide explosives. There was also a significant increase in sectarian-motivated attacks, including the deadliest single attack from a large suicide vehicle in Kabul last May.

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According to the report, attacks also increased significantly in places of worship -- with nearly 500 civilian casualties from 38 attacks in 2017.

"This amounted to three times as many attacks as in 2016, double the number the deaths and 30 percent more total civilian casualties," the report states.

"The chilling statistics in this report provide credible data about the war's impact, but the figures alone cannot capture the appalling human suffering inflicted on ordinary people, especially women and children," Tadamichi Yamamoto, U.N. Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, said in the report.

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