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UN documents record spike in child casualties

UN documents record spike in child casualties

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Feb 06, 2017 - 12:09

KABUL (Pajhwok): Conflict-related civilian casualties in Afghanistan saw a three percent spike in 2016 compared to the previous year, the United Nations said in its annual report on Monday.

Between Jan. 1 and Dec. 31, 2016, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) recorded 3,498 civilian deaths and 7,920 wounded. The number of children killed and injured hit an all-time high in 2016.

"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."

The mission documented 3,512 casualties among children, including 923 deaths and 2,589 wounded. The figures represent 24 percent increase from 2015 and the highest number of child casualties recorded by UNAMA in a single year.

UNAMA head Tadamichi Yamamoto said: "This appalling conflict destroys lives and tears communities apart in every corner of Afghanistan.” He asked parties to the conflict to ensure accountability for indiscriminate and deliberate acts of civilian harm.

Anti-government elements -- mainly Taliban -- were blamed for 61 percent of civilian casualties. The UN mission attributed 24 percent of casualties to pro-government forces.

The disproportionate rise in child casualties resulted mainly from a 66 percent increase in civilian casualties from explosive remnants of war, and most of those civilians were children.

Ground engagements, particularly in areas populated or frequented by civilians, were the leading cause of civilian casualties, followed by improvised explosive devices, suicide and complex attacks and deliberate killings.

UNAMA documented 899 civilian casualties (209 deaths and 690 injured) in comparison to 82 civilian casualties (39 deaths and 43 injured) in 2015, the report said. Daesh fighters used suicide attacks and targeted killings as primary tactics against civilians.

 “The killing and maiming of thousands of Afghan civilians is deeply harrowing and largely preventable,” said Yamamoto, who asked all parties to the conflict to protect the ordinary Afghan men, women and children.

Airstrikes by Afghan and international forces caused 590 civilian casualties (250 deaths and 340 injured) -- the highest since 2009. Yamamoto condemned the unrelenting impact of ground engagements on civilians.

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein said: “Children have been killed, blinded, crippled – or inadvertently caused the death of their friends while playing with unexploded ordnance that is negligently left behind by parties to the conflict.

Women continue to be brutally punished in parallel so-called ‘justice’ processes while religious minorities are targeted as they pray in their mosques,” Zeid said.

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