Kabul, Jul 26 (EFE).- Civilian casualties in the armed conflict in Afghanistan increased by 47 percent in first six months of 2021 compared to the same period last year, according to the latest report by United Nations on Monday.
This spike is mainly due to an increase in Taliban offensives in the wake of the withdrawal of the United States and NATO forces from Afghanistan starting May 1.
The United Nations’ Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), in its midyear report, Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, documented 5,183 civilian casualties – 1,659 killed and 3,254 injured – so far this year, marking a 47 percent increase year-on-year.
The number of civilian casualties in May and June was 2,392 -783 killed and 1,609 injured -, which was the highest for these months since UNAMA began documenting these figures in 2009.
The period between January and April saw 2,791 civilian casualties, including 876 killed and 1,915 injured.
Women and children accounted for close to half of all civilian casualties in the first six months of 2021, highest ever recorded for this period in any calendar year in Afghanistan.
During the months of May and July, the Taliban made unprecedented territorial gains and have now captured around 125 district centers throughout the country.
UNAMA warned that 2021 could witness the highest ever number of documented civilian casualties in a single year unless a significant de-escalation in violence is achieved.
“I implore the Taliban and Afghan leaders to take heed of the conflict’s grim and chilling trajectory and its devastating impact on civilians,” said the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons.
“The report provides a clear warning that unprecedented numbers of Afghan civilians will perish and be maimed this year if the increasing violence is not stemmed,” she added, urging the Taliban and Afghan leaders to intensify their “efforts at the negotiating table.”
According to the report, much of the fighting during the most deadly months of May and June took place in areas with comparatively low population levels, leading to concerns about “catastrophic” consequences for the people if the military action shifts to urban areas with high population densities.
Civilian casualties attributed to the militants increased by 63 percent compared to the same period in 2020, while those attributed to the pro-government forces increased by 30 percent.
Militants were responsible for 64 percent of the total civilian casualties – 39 percent by the Taliban, almost nine percent by the Islamic State, and 16 percent by undetermined anti-government elements.
Pro-government forces were responsible for 25 percent of civilian casualties, while 11 percent were attributed to crossfire during ground engagements where the exact party responsible could not be determined.
This is the first time that not a single civilian casualty has been attributed to the international military forces, who are set to pullout from the country after 20 years of war that began with the US invasion following the 9/11 attacks.
So far this year, Improvised Explosive Devices caused 38 percent of civilian casualties, followed by ground engagements between parties of war with 33 percent and targeted killings by militants with 14 percent.
UNAMA also expressed deep concern about the targeting of civilian government workers, human rights activists, media workers, religious figures, and humanitarian workers, as well as sectarian-motivated attacks by militants.
On May 8, an attack outside the Sayed ul-Shuhuda school in Kabul resulted in more than 300 civilian casualties, including 85 dead, mostly school girls.
UNAMA also underlined a resurgence of deliberate sectarian-motivated attacks against the Shia Muslim minority. Between Jan.1 and June 30, 2021, UNAMA documented 20 incidents targeting Shia and Hazara minorities that resulted in 500 civilian casualties, including 143 dead. EFE