Conflicts & War

More than 500 civilians killed in Afghan conflict in 2020 1st quarter

Kabul, Apr 27 (efe-epa).- More than 500 civilians were killed in the conflict in Afghanistan in the first three months of the year, according to a United Nations report released Monday.

Between Jan.1 and Mar.31, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented a total of 1,293 civilian casualties – 533 killed and 760 injured – in the country.

Children accounted for 417 casualties – 152 killed and 265 injured – while 60 women lost their lives and 108 were injured during this period.

Anti-government forces were responsible for 55 percent or 710 civilian casualties – 282 killed and 428 injured – of which 39 percent were attributed to the Taliban, 13 percent to the Islamic State and the remainder to other militant groups.

Pro-government forces were responsible for 32 percent or 412 civilian casualties – 198 killed and 214 injured – mainly through airstrikes and indirect fire during ground engagements.

UNAMA attributed 21 percent of civilian casualties to the actions of the Afghan national security forces, eight percent to the international troops and the remainder to other pro-government armed groups.

Overall, the figures represent a 29 percent decrease in civilian casualties compared to the same period last year, during which UNAMA recorded a total 1,822 casualties, including 604 deaths and 1,218 injured, and the lowest figure for the first quarter of a year since 2012.

However, the UN body expressed concern about a resurgence of violence in March, when the Afghan government and the insurgents were expected to hold peace talks, following a reduction in violence towards the end of February that paved the way for a US-Taliban peace agreement.

The peace deal, signed in the Qatari capital of Doha on Feb.29, included a prisoner swap agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan forces, which would serve as a precursor to the commencement of intra-Afghan talks to usher in peace in the country after nearly 20 years.

However, the process was affected by a disagreement between the insurgents and the government, leading to the Taliban negotiating team pulling out of the prisoner exchange talks earlier this month.

Although both sides have unilaterally released some prisoners in an attempt to adhere to the Doha agreement, violence has continued unabated in the country, resulting in civilian casualties.

The UN body said the latest report reflected that the conflict in Afghanistan continues to be one of the deadliest in the world for civilians, especially at a time when the “potential impact of COVID-19 poses a threat to all individuals in Afghanistan.”

UNAMA head and UN Special Representative for Afghanistan, Deborah Lyons underlined UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres’ call “for a global ceasefire” in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, and termed it an opportunity to usher in peace.

“To safeguard the lives of countless civilians in Afghanistan and to give the nation hope of a better future, it is imperative that violence is stopped with the establishment of a ceasefire and for peace negotiations to commence,” Lyons said in the statement. EFE-EPA

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