Civilian Casualties In Afghanistan Hit Record High Amid US Pullout, UN Report
More women and children have been killed or injured in Afghanistan over the first six months of 2021 than in the first half of any year since 2009, when record-keeping began, a United Nations report said Monday
UNITED NATIONS, (APP - UrduPoint / Pakistan Point News - 26th Jul, 2021 ) :More women and children have been killed or injured in Afghanistan over the first six months of 2021 than in the first half of any year since 2009, when record-keeping began, a United Nations report said Monday.
There was a 47 percent increase in civilians deaths and injuries between January and July, compared to the same period in 2020, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report said.
A particularly sharp rise in casualties occurred in May when U.S. military forces began withdrawing from the country and fighting intensified following the Taliban offensive to take territory from Government forces.
"The report provides a clear warning that unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed," Deborah Lyons, U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres' Special Representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement.
"I implore the Taliban and Afghan leaders to take heed of the conflict's grim and chilling trajectory and its devastating impact on civilians." The Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Midyear Update 2021 report puts the number of civilians killed or injured in Afghanistan this year at nearly 5,200. Of that figure, almost 1,700 were killed.
The number of deaths and casualties over the first six months is the highest since UNAMA started keeping records in 2009.
"UNAMA documented a nearly threefold increase in civilian casualties resulting from the use of non-suicide improvised explosive devices by anti-government elements," the report said.
The assistance mission said the rising use of roadside bombs is partly to blame for the number of civilian deaths and injuries.
"UNAMA remains deeply concerned about the continuation of AGE attacks deliberately targeting civilians, particularly through the use of IEDs and shootings, including targeting of civilian government workers, human rights defenders, media workers, religious elders, and humanitarian workers, and sectarian-motivated attacks," UNAMA said in a statement.
Lyons called on Taliban and Afghan leaders to intensify their efforts at the negotiating table: "Stop the Afghan against Afghan fighting. Protect the Afghan people and give them hope for a better future," she said.
The UNAMA report noted that this is the first time that it has not attributed a single civilian casualty to international military forces.
It stated that the conflict has now apparently become an exclusively civilian fight.
"Anti-government elements" were responsible for 64 per cent of the total casualties, of which 39 per cent were attributed to the Taliban, nearly nine per cent to Islamic State-Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP), and 16 per cent to undetermined non-state actors.
Pro-Government Forces (PGFs) were responsible for 25 per cent of civilian casualties: 23 per cent by Afghan national security forces, and two per cent by pro-Government armed groups or undetermined PGFs.
Eleven per cent of all civilian casualties were attributed to "crossfire" during ground engagements where the exact party responsible could not be determined, and other incident types, including unattributable unexploded ordnance/explosive remnants of war.
The leading causes of civilian casualties in the first half of 2021 were the extensive use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by opposition forces, ground engagements between parties, targeted killings by non-state groups and airstrikes by the Afghan Air Force.
UNAMA said it was deeply concerned about these attacks which deliberately targeted civilians, including government workers, human rights defenders, media workers, religious elders, and humanitarian workers, and sectarian-motivated attacks.
Children, it stated, were deliberately targeted on at least one occasion. The most shocking incident was the 8 May attack outside the Sayed ul-Shuhuda school in Kabul, which resulted in more than 300 civilian casualties, mostly schoolgirls, including 85 killed, for which no group has claimed responsibility.
UNAMA also recorded a resurgence of deliberate sectarian-motivated attacks against the Shi'a Muslim religious minority, most of whom also belong to the Hazara ethnic group, nearly all claimed by the Islamist extremist group ISIL-KP.
The UN mission said it was also concerned about the increasing number of reports of killing, ill-treatment, persecution and discrimination in communities affected by the fighting and its aftermath. It warned that all parties to respect the human rights and dignity of people and prevent such abuses and violations.