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‘Deeply disturbing’ rise in civilian casualties in Afghanistan – UNAMA

Afghan policemen patrol in Khush Tepa district of Jawzjan province in northern Afghanistan, March 16, 2015. (Xinhua/Arui)
Afghan policemen patrol in Khush Tepa district of Jawzjan province in northern Afghanistan, March 16, 2015. (Xinhua/Arui)

(dpa) – In spite of ongoing peace talks between the warring sides in Afghanistan, the number of civilian casualties has significantly increased in the first quarter, a report by the UN’s Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (UNAMA) said.

The conflict across Afghanistan has left 573 civilians dead and another 1,210 wounded in the first three months of this year, a 29-per-cent increase compared to the same period in 2020, the report said.

Of particular concern is a 37-per-cent increase in the number of female civilians and a 23-per-cent increase in children killed and wounded in the first quarter.

“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,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.

Based on the report, anti-government elements account for 61 per cent of total civilian casualties, while pro-government elements were responsible for 27 per cent of harm to civilians in the reporting period.

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Ground engagements, improvised explosive devices (IEDs), and targeted killings were the main drivers of the casualties, according to the report.

Talks about a political solution to the conflict between the Taliban and the government that started in September 2020 had raised hopes that the situation for civilians would improve.

However, from October 2020 until March of this year, civilians casualties increased by 38 per cent compared to the same period a year earlier.

“Every possible opportunity for peace must be seized. If levels of violence are not immediately reduced, thousands of Afghan civilians will continue to be killed and injured by fellow Afghans in 2021,” said Lyons, who is also head of UNAMA.

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