April 24 (UPI) -- Despite an overall decrease in the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan, pro-Afghan government and international military forces were responsible for more civilian deaths in the first quarter of 2019 than the Taliban and the Islamic State, according to a new United Nations report.
From Jan. 1 to March 31, 52 percent of the deaths -- 305 -- were attributed to pro-government forces while 227 civilian deaths were attributed to anti-government elements, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in its quarterly report.
The report attributed 115 deaths to the Afghan National Security Forces, 146 to international military forces, 41 to pro-government armed groups and 30 to multiple pro-government forces.
For the anti-government side, the report attributed 173 civilian deaths to the Taliban, 43 deaths to the Islamic State and 11 to undetermined anti-government elements.
A further 49 civilian deaths were classified as undetermined or joint attribution.
Meanwhile, the U.N. mission said anti-government forces were responsible for the highest number of civilian casualties at 54 percent, meaning both deaths and injured, with 963, while pro-government forces incurred 608 casualties.
Overall, the number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan decreased by 23 percent year-on-year to 1,773 during the first quarter of 2019, hitting its lowest mark for the first quarter since 2013.
In 2018, the U.N. recorded 2,305 civilian casualties.
"The overall reduction of civilian casualties was driven by a decrease in civilian casualties by suicide improvised explosive device attacks," the report said. "UNAMA notes that particularly harsh winter conditions during the first three months of the year, which may have contributed to this trend."
It said that drop in the number of civilian casualties was largely driven by a reduction in civilians killed in suicide attacks, saying there were 76 percent fewer casualties from such attacks on-year.
The report points out that it cannot say if any measures taken by either party to protect civilians is the reason for the decrease in civilian casualties.
"UNAMA attributed 17 percent of civilian casualties to the Afghan national security forces, 13 percent to international military forces, 2 percent to pro-government armed groups and 2 percent to multiple pro-government forces," the report said.
It said it is concerned by the increase in civilian casualties at the hands of anti-government forces with the use of non-suicide improvised explosive devices while stating pro-government forces showed an increase in civilian casualties as the result of aerial and search operations.
"A shocking number of civilians continue to be killed and maimed each day," U.N. Secretary-Generals' Special Representative for Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto said in a statement. "In particular, anti-government elements need to stop deliberately targeting civilians and using IEDs, which cause indiscriminate harm."
He added that pro-government forces are called upon "to take immediate measures to mitigate the rising death toll and suffering caused by airstrikes and search operations."