Ground fighting takes growing toll on civilians: UN
KABUL (Pajhwok): Latest figures from the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) showed a continuing trend of record high civilian casualties, with deaths and injuries from ground engagements in Afghanistan remaining the leading cause.
A statement released by the UNAMA said on Sunday that today, with the release of UNAMA’s findings from the first quarter of 2015, UNAMA called on all parties to the conflict to recognize and act to prevent harm to civilians.
“With the seasonal resumption of higher levels of conflict-related violence, the United Nations urges all parties to the conflict to take all necessary measures to protect civilians,” said Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA.
Haysom said: “The parties in particular should refrain from using mortars and rockets in any areas populated by civilians.”
In the first three months of 2015, civilian casualties from ground engagements rose by eight per cent compared to the same period in 2014. Ground fighting between pro-government forces and anti-government elements caused 521 civilian casualties, with 136 civilians killed and 385 injured.
Haysom said UNAMA was particularly concerned about the impact on civilians of further conflict-related operations by the Afghan National Security Forces and anti-government elements in the coming months.
Total civilian deaths and injuries in the first quarter of 2015 followed the record high levels of 2014. Between 1 January and 31 March, UNAMA documented 1,810 civilian casualties (655 deaths and 1,155 injured), a two per cent decrease from the same period in 2014.
The latest figures further demonstrated a continued rise in women casualties with an increase of 15 per cent on the same period last year. Conflict-related violence killed 55 women and injured 117. Child casualties surpassed the unprecedented levels recorded last year with 430 child civilian casualties (123 deaths and 307 injured). In line with increased ground fighting in civilian populated areas, ground engagements remained the leading cause of women and children civilian casualties, the statement added.
Targeted killings were the third leading cause of civilian deaths and injuries. In the first three months of 2015, civilian casualties from targeted killings increased by 34 per cent, with UNAMA documenting 309 civilian casualties (217 killed and 92 injured) in 192 separate incidents.
The Taliban claimed responsibility for 48 incidents of targeted killings, including deliberate killings of tribal elders, judges, prosecutors and civilian government workers. Under international humanitarian law, a civilian is any person who is not taking a direct part in hostilities.
“The United Nations calls on the Taliban to cease all attacks against persons who are not taking a direct part in hostilities,” said Georgette Gagnon, Director of Human Rights for UNAMA.
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