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U.N. report: 1,300 civilian casualties in Afghanistan in first 3 months of 2020

Security officials patrol the scene of a suicide bombing near a governmental institution in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan. A U.N. report Monday said hundreds of civilian casualties have been killed so far this year in fighting. File Photo by Hedayatullah Amid/EPA-EFE
Security officials patrol the scene of a suicide bombing near a governmental institution in downtown Kabul, Afghanistan. A U.N. report Monday said hundreds of civilian casualties have been killed so far this year in fighting. File Photo by Hedayatullah Amid/EPA-EFE

April 27 (UPI) -- A United Nations report Monday said more than 500 civilians were killed in Afghanistan over the first three months of the year.

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in the 10-page report there were almost 1,300 civilians casualties between January and the end of March, including 533 deaths.

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UNAMA chief Deborah Lyons, a special U.N. representative for Afghanistan, said the Afghan government and Taliban insurgent group must ease violence to help those struggling as a result of the coronavirus pandemic.

"To safeguard the lives of countless civilians in Afghanistan and to give the nation hope of a better future, it is imperative that violence is stopped with the establishment of a cease-fire and for peace negotiations to commence," Lyons said in a statement.

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Afghanistan has reported more than 1,300 coronavirus cases but officials expect those numbers are higher due to a lack of widespread testing.

Monday's U.N. report said the Taliban was responsible for 39 percent of the civilian casualties in the first quarter and the Islamic State another 13 percent, accounting for a majority of the violence. The report also noted that Afghan and pro-government forces caused 32 percent of the total.

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"Although UNAMA documented a reduction in civilian casualties caused by the Afghan national security forces for the first quarter of 2020, the mission is concerned about an uptick in civilian casualties in March as a result of their operations," UNAMA said, adding that their civilian casualties were caused mostly by indirect fire and airstrikes.

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The Taliban, which has escalated violence in recent weeks, said the United States violated a February peace agreement by failing to force Kabul to release 5,000 militants from prison. Prisoner trades between the Afghan government and the Taliban were part of the deal and were expected to precede further intra-Afghan talks, but only a fraction of the inmates have been released so far.

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