16 January 2019
Nicholas Hysom says the harm done to civilians is 'totally unacceptable'. Photo: Reuters
Nicholas Hysom says the harm done to civilians is 'totally unacceptable'. Photo: Reuters

Civilian casualties in Afghanistan war hit record high: UN

Violence is spreading across Afghanistan after international troops left in 2014, driving civilian casualties to record levels.

At least 3,545 non-combatants died and another 7,457 were injured by fighting last year, a 4 percent increase over 2014, Reuters reports, citing the United Nations.

“The harm done to civilians is totally unacceptable,” Nicholas Haysom, the head of the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, said in a statement.

Fighting between Western-backed government forces and insurgent groups meant more non-combatants are being caught in the crossfire, investigators wrote, pointing to two developments in particular which pushed casualties up.

Heavy fighting in the northern city of Kunduz, which briefly fell to the Taliban in late September and a wave of suicide bombs which killed and wounded hundreds of people in the capital Kabul last year were the main factors behind the rise.

Elsewhere, casualties fell.

“In most parts of Afghanistan in 2015, civilian casualties decreased,” Danielle Bell, director of the UN human rights program in Afghanistan, told a news conference.

Ground engagements were the leading cause of civilian casualties at 37 percent, followed by roadside bombs at 21 percent and suicide attacks at 17 percent.

Women and children were hard hit, as casualties among women spiked 37 percent while deaths and injuries increased 14 percent among children.

Casualties attributed to pro-government forces jumped 28 percent compared to 2014 to account for 17 percent of the total.

Overall 103 civilians were killed and 67 wounded by foreign forces last year, the report found.

Since the United Nations began recording civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2009, it has documented nearly 59,000 deaths and injuries.

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