Afghan civil­ian deaths hit new high, says UN

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

The peo­ple of war-torn Afghanistan con­tinue to bear the brunt of the grind­ing con­flict with civil­ian deaths at their worst since records be­gan, the United Na­tions said yes­ter­day. In the first half of the year, 1,662 civil­ians were killed and more than 3,500 in­jured with deaths in the cap­i­tal Kabul ac­count­ing for nearly 20 per­cent of the toll, ac­cord­ing to the UN As­sis­tance Mis­sion in Afghanistan (UNAMA) re­port.

The ma­jor­ity of the vic­tims were killed by anti-govern­ment forces-in­clud­ing the resur­gent Tale­ban and in at­tacks claimed by the Is­lamic State, the re­port said, un­der­scor­ing spi­ral­ing in­se­cu­rity in the coun­try nearly 16 years af­ter the US in­va­sion. The UN has doc­u­mented civil­ian ca­su­al­ties in the war­rav­aged coun­try since 2009. The first six months of the year have seen a sig­nif­i­cant rise in the num­ber of civil­ian lives lost in highly co­or­di­nated at­tacks in­volv­ing more than one per­pe­tra­tor, with 259 killed and 892 in­jured-a 15 per­cent in­crease on the same pe­riod last year.

Many of those deaths hap­pened in a sin­gle at­tack in Kabul in late May when a truck bomb ex­ploded dur­ing the morn­ing rush hour, killing more than 150 peo­ple and in­jur­ing hun­dreds. UNAMA put the civil­ian death toll at 92, say­ing it was the dead­li­est in­ci­dent to hit the coun­try since 2001. The UN’s spe­cial en­voy to Afghanistan Tadamichi Ya­mamoto said the hu­man cost of the con­flict re­mains “far too high”.

“The con­tin­ued use of in­dis­crim­i­nate, dis­pro­por­tion­ate and il­le­gal im­pro­vised ex­plo­sive de­vices is par­tic­u­larly ap­palling and must im­me­di­ately stop,” he added in a state­ment. The bloody toll of the first six months of 2017 has un­set­tled the govern­ment of Pres­i­dent Ashraf Ghani, who has come un­der in­creas­ing pres­sure since the May at­tack in Kabul. Protests and deadly street clashes hit the Afghan cap­i­tal in the wake of the May at­tack as peo­ple in­censed by se­cu­rity fail­ures called for his govern­ment’s res­ig­na­tion.

‘Psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma’

Women and chil­dren have borne the brunt of the in­crease in civil­ian ca­su­al­ties, with UNAMA blam­ing the use of IEDs and aerial oper­a­tions in pop­u­lated ar­eas for the jump. A to­tal of 174 women were killed and 462 in­jured-an over­all rise in ca­su­al­ties of 23 per­cent on last year-while 436 chil­dren were killed in the same pe­riod, rep­re­sent­ing a nine per­cent in­crease.

Save the Chil­dren ex­pressed alarm at the heavy toll-a third of all civil­ian death­son the coun­try’s youth. “It’s ex­tremely con­cern­ing to see the num­ber of chil­dren killed and in­jured by con­flict in­creas­ing, re­flect­ing the grow­ing dan­ger faced by young Afghans,” the char­ity’s Afghanistan coun­try di­rec­tor David Skin­ner said in a state­ment. The UNAMA re­port said that nearly half of Afghanistan’s 34 prov­inces have seen an in­crease in civil­ian deaths in the first six months of the year, mainly due to the rise in at­tacks by anti-govern­ment forces across the coun­try. “The sta­tis­tics in this re­port, hor­ri­fy­ing though they are, can never fully con­vey the sheer hu­man suf­fer­ing of the peo­ple of Afghanistan,” said UN High Com­mis­sioner for Hu­man Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hus­sein.

“Many Afghan civil­ians are suf­fer­ing psy­cho­log­i­cal trauma, hav­ing lost fam­ily and friends, and are liv­ing in fear know­ing the risks they face as they go about their daily lives.”The ground of­fen­sives by Afghan se­cu­rity forces are the sec­ond lead­ing cause of civil­ian ca­su­al­ties, though UNAMA said there had been a 10 per­cent de­crease com­pared to the same pe­riod in 2016. —AFP


KABUL: This file photo taken on May 31, 2017 shows the bod­ies of Afghan vic­tims of a car bomb at­tack loaded in the back of a po­lice ve­hi­cle at a hospi­tal.

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