Civilian deaths in Afghanistan hit record high: UN

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UNITED NATIONS, July 15 (APP):The number of civilians killed in Afghanistan hit a record high in the first half of the year, despite last month’s ceasefire, according to the United Nations.
Militant attacks and bombings were reported as the leading causes of the deaths in the war-torn country, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a report released on Sunday,
According to UNAMA’s figures, 1,692 civilians were killed during the first six months of 2018 – the most recorded in the period over the last decade since the agency began documentation.
However, with a total of 5,122 casualties, including 3,430 injuries, UNAMA recorded a three percent overall decrease in the number of those affected by the violence in the war-torn country.
The UN figures also showed a 15 percent drop in child and women casualties – at 1,355 and 544 respectively – but UNAMA voiced grave concern over the human cost of the conflict.
“In the first six months of 2018, the armed conflict continued to destroy the lives and livelihoods of civilians at the same toxic levels as last year,” the report said.
A temporary break in fighting was declared independently by both the Afghan government and the Taliban during the first three days of Eid after Ramadan in June.
“The brief ceasefire demonstrated that the fighting can be stopped and that Afghan civilians no longer need to bear the brunt of the war,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, UNAMA head and the UN secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, as he urged all parties to find a peaceful solution.
The UNAMA report attributed 42 percent of the civilian casualties to the Afghan Taliban and 18 percent to ISIL/D’aesh, noting a fourfold increase in deaths and injuries caused by both the armed groups.
Afghan security forces have struggled to battle the Taliban and ISIL since the United States and NATO formally concluded their combat mission in the country in 2014 and shifted their focus to a “support and counter-terrorism” role.
Meanwhile, pro-government forces, including Afghan national security forces and international military forces, caused a fifth of the civilian casualties so far this year.
Ground engagements accounted for the most victims at 1,494 followed by suicide and complex attacks, which led to 1,413 casualties.
The UN research also noted a sharp increase of 52 per cent in casualties caused by aerial bombing amid US’ expansion of air raids in a bid to force the Taliban to enter peace negotiations.
Civilians living in the provinces of Kabul, Nangarhar, Faryab, Helmand and Kandahar were the most affected by the conflict, the report added.
There has been a recent surge in violence in Afghanistan’s eastern city of Jalalabad in Nangarhar province this month.
In less than two weeks, three separate attacks in the provincial capital have killed at least 41 people, with the latest one on July 11 targeting an office of the education department.
The UN mission expressed particular concern at the trend of targeting education facilities by
anti-government forces.
“Conflict-related violence continued to erode the rights of children to education, healthcare, freedom of movement and other fundamental rights, as well as family life, playing outdoors and simply enjoying a childhood free of the brutal effects of war,” Danielle Bell, UNAMA’s human rights chief, said in a statement.