UN says Afghan civilian casualties up 23%

More than half caused by Taliban use of improvised explosive devices, report says

Georgette Gagnon, director of Unama’s human rights unit: “The growing loss of life and injuries to Afghan women and children in 2013 is particularly disturbing.” Photograph: Reuters/Mohammad Ismail

Georgette Gagnon, director of Unama’s human rights unit: “The growing loss of life and injuries to Afghan women and children in 2013 is particularly disturbing.” Photograph: Reuters/Mohammad Ismail

Thu, Aug 1, 2013, 01:00

Civilian casualties from Afghanistan’s conflict with Taliban guerrillas jumped by almost a quarter in the first half of this year, according to the United Nations, underscoring the challenges facing local forces now leading security operations.

Violence killed 1,319 civilians and wounded 2,533 up to the end of June, representing a 23 per cent increase in overall casualties from the same period in 2012, a report prepared by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said yesterday.

More than half were caused by the Taliban’s use of improvised explosive devices, it said. In the first six months of last year, 1,158 civilians died and 1,976 were injured.

“The growing loss of life and injuries to Afghan women and children in 2013 is particularly disturbing,” said Georgette Gagnon, director of Unama’s human rights unit.

“Deaths and injuries to women and children increased by 38 per cent in the first half of 2013 reflecting a grim reality of the conflict today in Afghanistan,” she added.

As US-led combat troops leave the country by the end of next year, security is likely to further deteriorate, according to Jawid Kohistani, a Kabul- based political and security analyst. “Afghans may face a major disaster next year,” he said.

The report attributed 74 percent of casualties to insurgents, 12 per cent to clashes between Afghan forces and Taliban fighters and 9 per cent to the actions of Afghan forces.

The remaining 5 per cent were unattributed.

The UN said 146 civilians were killed and 216 wounded by Afghan and Nato troops while conducting operations.

Nato’s International Security Assistance Force, or Isaf, said in an emailed statement that protecting civilians was a “cornerstone” of its mission.

Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahed rejected the report in a phone interview. He said it was “completely untrue and biased”, adding that the majority of civilian deaths were due to Nato aerial bombing and ground operations. – (Bloomberg)