Kabul, July 27 (efe-epa).- Some 1,282 civilians were killed and 2,176 injured in the first six months of 2020, marking a 13 percent decline in civilian casualties as compared to the same period last year, according to a United Nations report published on Monday.
Last year until June end, the UN’s Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) had recorded 3,973 casualties (1,422 killed and 2,551 injured).
The latest figure is the lowest in the past eight years, UNAMA said, attributing the drop mainly to the reduction in operations by foreign forces and Islamic State militants in the war-ravaged country.
Despite the drop, Afghanistan remains one of the deadliest conflicts in the world for civilians, the UN mission noted.
“At a time when the government of Afghanistan and the Taliban have a historic opportunity to come together at the negotiating table for peace talks, the tragic reality is that the fighting continues inflicting terrible harm to civilians every day,” said Deborah Lyons, the UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan.
“I urge the parties to pause, to reflect on the chilling incidents and the harm they are causing to the Afghan people, and to take decisive action to stop the carnage and get to the negotiating table,” said Lyons, who is the head of UNAMA.
A total of 58 percent of civilian casualties were caused by insurgent groups, with the Taliban responsible for 1,473 (580 deaths and 893 injuries).
The UN agency attributed nine percent of the total civilian casualties to the Islamic State and six percent to unknown militants.
UNAMA said, “a disturbing increase” in civilian casualties by the Taliban resulted due to pressure-plate improvised explosive devices, as well as from abductions that led to ill-treatment and summary executions.
At least 29 percent of the total civilian casualties were attributed to pro-government forces.
Afghan national security forces were responsible for 23 percent of the total number of civilian casualties, including 281 death and 508 injuries), which shows a nine percent increase compared to the same period of last year, mainly due to airstrikes.
The pro-government forces remained responsible for most child deaths with the international military forces causing three percent of the total civilian casualties.
However, almost 14 percent of the total civilian casualties were caused in the crossfire between militants and government forces.
Civilian casualties from airstrikes by the Afghan Air Force during the first six months of 2020 have tripled as compared to the same time in 2019.
Ground engagements remained the leading cause of civilian casualties with the majority – two-thirds of the total– caused by the use of indirect fire, particularly in civilian-populated areas.
The use of improvised explosive devices (suicide and non-suicide) was the second leading cause of civilian casualties, followed by targeted killings.
“UNAMA is especially concerned about the deliberate targeting of civilians, including religious leaders, healthcare workers, and journalists,” the UN agency said.
During the first half of 2020, the armed conflict caused 397 women casualties (138 killed and 259 injured) and 1,067 child casualties (340 killed and 727 injured) which comprise more than 40 percent of the total civilian casualties. EFE-EPA