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Record civilian casualties in first half of 2021 in Afghanistan

INTERNATIONAL DESK: Civilian casualties in Afghanistan spiked to record levels in the first half of the current year, the United Nations said on Monday.

In its latest report, UNAMA said 1,659 civilians were killed and 3,254 others wounded over the past six months — a 47 percent hike compared to the same period in 2020.

Without significant de-escalation, 2021 would see the highest ever number of registered civilian casualties in a single year since UNAMA began documentation in 2009.

The UN mission voiced serious concern at the acute rise in civilian casualties in the period from May 1, with almost as civilian casualties in the May-June period as recorded in the preceding four months.

Between January and April this year, 2,791 civilian casualties (876 killed and 1,915 injured) were registered by the UN mission.

The UNAMA head said: “I implore the Taliban and Afghan leaders to take heed of the conflict’s grim and chilling trajectory and its devastating impact on civilians.”

Deborah Lyons, who is also the secretary-general’s special representative, called the report a clear warning that unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians would be killed and maimed this year if the violence was not stemmed.

She urged the Taliban and Afghan leaders to intensify efforts at the negotiating table, stop the Afghan against Afghan fighting” and protect the people and give them hope for a better future.

Asking the warring parties to follow their obligations under international law, the report warned: “The pursuit of a military solution will only increase the suffering of the Afghan people.”

It added the fact that women, boys and girls made nearly half of all civilian casualties in the first half of 2021 was particularly shocking.

“Comprising 46 percent of all civilian casualties, 32 percent were children – 1,682 in total (468 killed and 1,214 injured), the report said.

Fourteen percent were women – 727 in total (219 killed and 508 injured). “It is sickening to report that more women and more children were killed and wounded than ever recorded by UNAMA for the first half of any calendar year…”

Militants were held responsible for 64 percent of the total civilian casualties: 39 percent by Taliban, nearly nine percent by Daesh and 16 percent by others.

“Pro-government forces (PGFs) were responsible for 25 percent of civilian casualties: 23 percent by Afghan national forces and two percent by pro-government armed or undetermined PGFs,” the report pointed out.

Eleven percent of all civilian casualties were linked to crossfire during ground engagements where the exact party responsible could not be determined and other incidents.

The UN also noted a resurgence of sectarian attacks against the country’s Shiite Hazara community, resulting in 143 deaths.

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