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UNAMA warns of ‘unprecedented’ civilian deaths in Afghanistan

INTERNATIONAL DESK: The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan warned Monday it is concerned about the increasing number of reports of killing, ill-treatment, persecution and discrimination in communities affected by the current fighting and its aftermath, Ariana News reports.

UNAMA warned that Afghanistan could see the highest number of civilian deaths in more than a decade if the Taliban’s offensives are not stopped.

In its six-monthly report, released Monday, UNAMA also stated the pursuit of a military solution will only increase the suffering of the Afghan people and warned that Afghan troops and pro-government forces were responsible for a quarter of all civilian casualties.

“Unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed,” UNAMA head Deborah Lyons said in a statement released with the report.

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

The UN envoy, who is also the head of UNAMA, called on the Taliban and Afghan leaders to,
“Intensify your efforts at the negotiating table, stop the Afghan against Afghan fighting. Protect the Afghan people and give them hope for a better future.”

The UNAMA report stated that much of the battlefield action during the most deadly months of May and June took place outside cities, in areas with comparatively low population levels but stated “the UN is gravely concerned that if intensive military action is undertaken in urban areas with high population densities, the consequences for Afghan civilians could be catastrophic”.

During the first half of 2021, some 1,659 civilians were killed and another 3,254 wounded – a 47 percent increase compared with the same period last year, the UNAMA report said.

The rise in civilian casualties was particularly sharp in May and June – the initial period of the Taliban’s current offensives – with 783 civilians killed and 1,609 wounded, it added.

UNAMA blamed anti-government elements for 64 percent of civilian casualties — including some 40 percent caused by the Taliban and nearly nine percent by Daesh.

About 16 percent of casualties were caused by “undetermined” anti-government elements.

But Afghan troops and pro-government forces were responsible for 25 percent, it said.

UNAMA said about 11 percent of casualties were caused by “crossfire” and the responsible parties could not be determined.

The reported stated that Afghan leaders, with the support of the region and the international community, must heed and answer the calls for peace from the people.

According to UNAMA, women comprised 14 percent of all civilian casualties during this period, with a total of 727 women casualties recorded (219 killed and 508 injured), an increase of 82 percent compared with the first six months of last year.

UNAMA stated Anti-Government Elements were responsible for 57 percent of women casualties, while Pro-Government Forces were responsible for 31 percent, and crossfire/other accounted for the remaining 12 percent of women casualties.

Of the 39 incidents of targeted killings that resulted in women casualties, women appeared to have been the main target in 18 of the incidents, resulting in four women killed and 25 women injured.

The high casualty toll among children was also concerning with 682 child casualties (468 killed and 1,214 injured) documented in this period. This was a 55 percent increase compared to the first six months of last year, UNAMA stated.

This included 622 girl casualties (171 killed and 451 injured) and 1,041 boy casualties (293 killed and 748 injured).

Anti-Government Elements were responsible for 50 percent of all child casualties, while Pro-Government Forces were responsible for 34 percent, and crossfire during ground engagements accounted for 12 percent of child casualties.

“Particularly shocking and of deep concern is that women, boys and girls made up close to half of all civilian casualties,” the report said.

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

Afghan forces spokesman Gen. Omar Shinwari addressed a news conference in Kabul today & rejected UNAMA’s report on civilian casualties by Afghan forces. He said security forces have retreated from many areas to prevent civilian casualties.

The Taliban has meanwhile rejected UNAMA’s report on civilian casualties and called it “biased and untrue.”

“Nowhere in the last six months have the Mujahideen of the Islamic Emirate deliberately killed civilians or carried out attacks that could have resulted in civilian casualties,” the group said in a statement.

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