April 14 (UPI) -- Civilian casualties in Afghanistan are up by almost 30% this year and numbered close to 1,800 over the first three months of 2021, according to a United Nations report on Wednesday.
The assessment by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, or UNAMA, said a total of 1,783 civilians were killed or injured in the three-month period. Nearly 600 were killed and 1,200 were injured, the Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict report states.
Compared to the first three months of 2020, civilian casualties this year are up 29%, the report said. It also noted a 37% increase in the number of women casualties and a 23% increase in child casualties.
"The number of Afghan civilians killed and maimed, especially women and children, is deeply disturbing. I implore the parties to urgently find a way to stop this violence," Deborah Lyons, a special U.N. representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement.
The figures attribute most of the deaths to the Taliban, which is blamed for 44% of all the casualties so far in 2021. It said the Afghan National Army was responsible for 17% and that other casualties resulted from crossfire and anti-government or pro-government armed groups.
The report said the overall increase in civilian casualties was driven primarily by the same trends that caused a rise at the end of last year -- ground engagements, improvised explosive devices and targeted killings.
Peace negotiations that started in September raised hopes for an improving situation, but the United Nations noted a 38% increase year-to-year in civilian casualties between October and March.
"Every possible opportunity for peace must be seized," Lyons added. "If levels of violence are not immediately reduced, thousands of Afghan civilians will continue to be killed and injured by fellow Afghans in 2021."
The UNAMA report comes on the same day U.S. President Joe Biden is expected to announce a total withdrawal of all U.S. forces from Afghanistan. News reports Tuesday said Biden's order will stipulate that the withdrawal will occur by Sept. 11, the 20th anniversary of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.
Biden's order would extend the May 2021 deadline set by former President Donald Trump's administration.