By Shadi Khan Saif
KABUL, Afghanistan (AA) – Out of over 1,500 documented civilian deaths in Afghanistan in the first six months of 2017, the UN has attributed 327 — or nearly one-fifth — to pro-government forces.
In its latest mid-year report issued on Monday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) confirmed a total of 1,662 civilian deaths between Jan. 1 and June 30 — most of them from a devastating attack in late May — up 2 percent over the same period last year.
A total of 174 women were confirmed killed and 462 injured, an overall rise of 23 percent from the same period last year. The UN also documented 436 child deaths and 1,141 injuries.
The UNAMA said the use of pressure-plate roadside bombs or IEDs and aerial operations in civilian-populated areas substantially contributed to the rise in casualties for both women and children.
Mohammad Arif, a former Afghan National Army officer, told Anadolu Agency that with an evident surge in ground engagements near densely populated urban centers, government forces need to avoid using heavy weapons where there is a risk of civilian casualties.
“The militants have often used civilians as human shields, but falling into their trap and using heavy weapons in populated areas would only cause civilian casualties and fuel hatred”, he said.
Anti-government forces caused the deaths of 1,141 civilians and injured 2,348, up 12 percent over the first six months of last year. These deaths and injuries represent 67 percent of the total civilian casualties, with 43 percent attributed to the Taliban, 5 percent to Daesh in the Khorasan province, and the rest to unidentified attackers.
Most of the civilian casualties occurred in a single attack in the capital Kabul on May 31, when a truck bomb killed at least 92 civilians and injured nearly 500, the deadliest incident documented by UNAMA since 2001.
“The human cost of this ugly war in Afghanistan — loss of life, destruction and immense suffering — is far too high,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA. “The continued use of indiscriminate, disproportionate, and illegal improvised explosive devices is particularly appalling and must immediately stop”.
According to UN figures, more than 26,500 civilians have died and nearly 49,000 injured as a result of armed conflict in Afghanistan since January 2009.