Tue, Feb 07, 2017 - Page 5 News List

Afghan civilian casualties up 3 percent in 2016: UN

AP, KABUL

UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan director of human rights Danielle Bell holds up a copy of a report of civilian casualties in the nation’s armed conflict during a press conference in Kabul yesterday.

Photo: AFP

The number of civilians killed and wounded in Afghanistan’s conflict rose 3 percent last year compared with the previous year, the UN mission said in its Annual Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Afghanistan released yesterday.

The report said that from Jan. 1 to Dec. 31 last year, the mission documented 11,418 civilian casualties — 3,498 deaths and 7,920 wounded.

That marked a 2 percent decrease in civilian deaths and a 6 percent increase in civilians wounded, amounting to an overall 3 percent increase in casualties compared with 2015.

The UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in the report that “conflict-related violence exacted a heavy toll on Afghanistan in 2016, with an overall deterioration in civilian protection and the highest-total civilian casualties recorded since 2009, when UNAMA began systematic documentation of civilian casualties.”

UNAMA recorded 3,512 casualties among children, with 923 deaths and 2,589 wounded — a 24 percent increase from 2015, and the highest number of child casualties recorded by UNAMA in a single year.

The report said that the disproportionate rise in child casualties across Afghanistan last year resulted mainly from a 66 percent increase in casualties from left-over or discarded munitions.

“This appalling conflict destroys lives and tears communities apart in every corner of Afghanistan,” the report quoted UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto as saying. “Real protection of civilians requires commitment and demonstrated concrete actions to protect civilians from harm and for parties to the conflict to ensure accountability for indiscriminate and deliberate acts of civilian harm.”

“It is about time the various parties to the conflict ceased the relentless commission of war crimes and thought about the harm they are doing to their mothers, fathers, children and future generations by continuing to fuel this senseless, never-ending conflict,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said.

Aside from documenting the toll, the UN numbers reflect a changing war dynamic. Since 2014, international forces have largely withdrawn from the battlefield and fighting has moved into villages and closer to cities.

The leading cause of casualties is ground engagements. UNAMA attributed 61 percent of civilian deaths and injuries to what it called anti-government elements, mainly the Taliban, and 24 percent to pro-government forces.

Additional reporting by the Guardian

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