The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released its latest report on Wednesday for the period 1 January to 30 September which showed a continued high casualty rate on Afghan civilians, especially by anti-government elements.
The new UN report documents 8,050 civilian casualties (2,798 dead and 5,252 injured), reflecting the same extreme levels of harm to civilians in comparison to the same period in 2017.
In a statement issued by UNAMA, Tadamichi Yamamoto, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA said: “As there can be no military solution to the fighting in Afghanistan, the United Nations renews its call for an immediate and peaceful settlement to the conflict to end the suffering of the Afghan people.”
He said: “All parties can and should do their utmost to protect civilians from harm, including by making concrete progress toward peace.”
The report meanwhile indicates that the leading cause of civilians killed and injured from the armed conflict remained the combined use of suicide and non-suicide improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by anti-government elements. The report also documents how the use of suicide IEDs increased in frequency and in lethality, causing record high civilian casualty levels in the first three quarters of 2018.
UNAMA found that ground engagements were the second leading cause of civilian casualties, followed by targeted and deliberate killings, aerial operations and explosive remnants of war. Of grave concern, the report notes that anti-government elements increasingly directed attacks specifically against the civilian population, including ethnic and religious minorities.
In addition to detailing civilian casualties caused by search operations, elections-related violence and fighting in the city of Ghazni, UNAMA’s latest findings indicate that Nangarhar, Kabul, Helmand, Ghazni and Faryab were the provinces most impacted by the conflict.
For the first time, Nangarhar surpassed Kabul as the province with the most civilian casualties in the first nine months of 2018, more than double the number recorded during the same period in 2017.
“Every civilian death leaves a family devastated, grieving and struggling to come to terms with the loss, and each civilian injured or maimed causes untold suffering,” said Danielle Bell, UNAMA’s Human Rights Chief. “The worrying rise in civilian casualties in Nangarhar reflects an unacceptable trend that is indicative of how Afghan civilians continue to bear the brunt of this ongoing conflict.”
From 1 January to 30 September 2018, anti-government elements caused 5,243 civilian casualties (1,743 deaths and 3,500 injured), accounting for 65 percent of all civilian casualties, approximately the same as in the first nine months of 2017.
Of the 65 percent of civilian casualties attributed to anti-government elements, 35 percent were attributed to Taliban, 25 percent to Daesh, and five percent to unidentified anti-government elements (including less than one percent to self-proclaimed Daesh).
The use of IEDs, mainly during suicide attacks, remained the leading cause of civilian casualties attributed to anti-government elements.
Overall IED civilian casualties increased by 21 percent, while civilian casualties from suicide and complex attacks increased by 46 percent.
Ground engagements, the next leading cause of civilian casualties attributed to anti-government elements, marked a 26 percent decrease compared with the first nine months of 2017.
The majority of civilian casualties caused by pro-government forces resulted from ground engagements, despite a 17 percent reduction in ground engagement civilian casualties attributed to pro-government forces (mainly Afghan national security forces).
The next leading cause of civilian casualties by pro-government forces was aerial attacks, for which UNAMA recorded a 39 percent increase in civilian casualties, which together with a significant increase in civilian casualties from search operations offset the decrease in civilian casualties from ground fighting.
Meanwhile, aerial operations conducted by pro-government forces caused eight per cent of total civilian casualties, the fourth leading cause of civilian casualties between January and September 2018.
The mission documented 649 civilian casualties (313 deaths and 336 injured) resulting from aerial operations, a 39 percent increase from the same period in 2017.
The number of civilian casualties recorded from aerial operations in the first nine months of 2018 has already surpassed the number of civilian casualties recorded over every entire year since UNAMA began systematic civilian casualty documentation in 2009.
The majority of the increase in civilian casualties from aerial operations resulted from incidents attributed to international military forces, which have more than doubled over the first nine months of 2018 as compared to the same time period last year. This worrying trend comes amidst continued reports of high numbers of airstrikes, by both Afghan and international military forces.
UNAMA attributed 51 percent of civilian casualties from aerial attacks to international military forces, 38 percent to the Afghan Air Force, and the remaining 11 percent to pro-government forces where specific attribution could not be established.
Women and children continued to comprise more than 60 percent of all aerial attack civilian casualties and the number of child casualties from these attacks increased by 53 percent compared to the first nine months of 2017.
Most women and child casualties from aerial strikes occurred during aerial strikes in areas populated by civilians, often targeting anti-government elements who were co-located with the civilian population, and who sometimes targeted pro-government forces from civilian residences.
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