Civilian deaths in Afghanistan hit record

Reuters
The number of civilians killed in Afghanistan reached a record in the first half of the year, despite last month's cease-fire, the United Nations said yesterday.
Reuters

The number of civilians killed in Afghanistan reached a record in the first half of the year, despite last month’s cease-fire, with a surge in suicide attacks claimed by Islamic State, the United Nations said yesterday.

Deaths rose 1 percent to 1,692, although injuries dropped 5 percent to 3,430, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said in its latest civilian casualty report. Overall civilian casualties were down 3 percent.

Hopes that peace may one day be agreed in Afghanistan were raised last month by a three-day truce over the Eid al-Fitr holiday which saw unprecedented scenes of Taliban fighters mingling with security forces in Kabul and other cities.

“The brief cease-fire demonstrated that the fighting can be stopped and that Afghan civilians no longer need to bear the brunt of the war,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the senior UN official in Afghanistan said.

But with heavy fighting seen across the country during the first half the year and repeated suicide attacks in Kabul and major provincial cities like Jalalabad, the report underlines the dire security situation facing Afghanistan.

It also pointed to increased activity by Islamic State, reflected in a doubling in casualties in Nangarhar, the eastern province whose capital is Jalalabad, where the militant group has conducted a series of attacks over recent months.

The main causes of casualties were ground engagements between security forces and militants, roadside bombs, as well as suicide and other so-called complex attacks, which caused 22 percent more casualties than in the same period last year.

Hundreds of civilians were killed in attacks on targets as diverse as Shiite shrines, offices of government ministries and aid groups, sports events and voter registration stations.

Fifty-two percent of the casualties from suicide and complex attacks were attributed to Islamic State while 40 percent were attributed to the Taliban.

With parliamentary elections scheduled for October, there is concern about more violence as polling day approaches.

The Taliban, fighting to restore their version of strict Islamic law, have rejected President Ashraf Ghani’s offer of peace talks, demanding that foreign forces leave Afghanistan.

Yesterday’s report said that the biggest cause of civilian casualties continued to be ground engagements between government forces and militant groups, with 360 deaths and 1,134 wounded.

But it noted that these casualties had nonetheless declined by 18 percent.

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