Kabul, Apr 14 (EFE).- Civilian casualties in Afghanistan increased by 29 percent between January and March compared to the same period in 2020, despite an ongoing peace talks between the Taliban and the government, according to a report by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Wednesday.
According to the Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict 2021 First Quarter Report, there were 1,783 civilian casualties – 573 dead and 1,210 injured -, compared to the 1,387 casualties – 564 dead and 823 injured – last year.
Nineteen percent of the casualties – 177 dead and 160 injured – were a result of targeted killings of activists, intellectuals and journalists mainly in urban areas by militants.
UNAMA in its report also underlined a 37 percent increase in the number of women killed and injured, and a 23 percent increase in child casualties compared with the first quarter of 2020.
“The number of Afghan civilians killed and maimed, especially women and children, is deeply disturbing. I implore the parties to urgently find a way to stop this violence,” said Deborah Lyons, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
Anti-government forces were responsible for 61 percent of all civilian casualties, with Taliban accounting for 43.5 percent, Islamic State five percent and undetermined elements for 12.5 percent.
Meanwhile, government forces were behind the 27 percent of the total civilian casualties, while the remaining 12 percent were reportedly caused by cross firing and were attributable to any side.
Moreover, in the six-month period between October 2020 and March 2021, UNAMA recorded a 38 percent increase in civilian casualties compared with the same period a year earlier.
Violence has escalated in the country despite the ongoing peace talks between representatives of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani and the Taliban since last year. However, these talks have made little progress so far.
Later this month, government and Taliban delegates are due to take part in wider negotiations in Turkey involving the United States and Russia, among other parties.
“Every possible opportunity for peace must be seized. If levels of violence are not immediately reduced, thousands of Afghan civilians will continue to be killed and injured by fellow Afghans in 2021,” said Lyons.
Officials in Washington have revealed that President Joe Biden will soon announce a plan for the withdrawal of US troops from Afghanistan by the 20th anniversary of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, rather than on May 1, the date set by his predecessor, Donald Trump. EFE