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UNAMA report: number of Afghan civilian casualties rises by 24 per cent in first half of 2014

9 July 2014 - Ground combat among parties to the armed conflict in Afghanistan surpassed improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as the leading cause of conflict-related death and injury to Afghan civilians in the first six months of 2014, according to a major report of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), launched today in the Afghan capital of Kabul.

In its 2014 Mid-Year Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, prepared in coordination with the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UNAMA also noted that ground engagements and crossfire hit children and women with unprecedented force, with associated child casualties more than doubling in the first six months of 2014 and two-thirds more women killed and injured by ground engagements compared with 2013.

While civilian casualties caused by IEDs also increased to unprecedented levels over the same period in 2013, deaths and injuries caused by mortars, rocket-propelled grenades and small arms fire in ground engagements jumped dramatically as the frequency and intensity of these incidents increased in 2014, particularly in areas with concentrated civilian populations.

“The nature of the conflict in Afghanistan is changing in 2014 with an escalation of ground engagements in civilian-populated areas,” the United Nations Special Representative for the Secretary-General in Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Ján Kubiš, said in a news release. “The impact on civilians, including the most vulnerable Afghans, is proving to be devastating.”

“More efforts are needed for civilians, to ensure accountability for those who deliberately indiscriminately kill them for the remaining months of 2014. We are urging the parties to attempt to make efforts to reverse this downward spiral to cease firing mortars, rockets and grenades into civilian areas and to stop using IEDs, putting them in places indiscriminately, and to stop using illegal IEDs,” Ms. Gagnon said. “It is very important to highlight every civilian casualty has a life behind it, and the report has many accounts of those who have been killed and injured.”

The reports notes that from 1 January to 30 June 2014, UNAMA documented 4,853 civilian casualties, up 24 per cent over the same period in 2013. Included in the toll were 1,564 civilian deaths and 3,289 injuries, up 17 and 28 per cent from the same time period last year, respectively. Ground engagements caused two of every five civilian casualties in 2014 accounting for 39 per cent of all civilian casualties: 1,901 in total, up 89 per cent from 2013, with 474 civilians killed and 1,427 injured.

Total child civilian casualties increased 34 per cent in the first six months of 2014 to 1,071, including 295 killed and 776 injured, while total women civilian casualties increased 24 per cent to 440, including 148 killed and 292 injured. Ground engagements took the lives of 112 children and injured 408, with the total 520 child casualties, an increase of 111 per cent over 2013. Ground engagements killed 64 Afghan women and injured 192, with the total 256 women casualties, up 61 per cent over 2013.

Improvised explosive devices used by Anti-Government Elements, the second leading cause of civilian casualties in 2014, were behind 1,463 civilian casualties, up seven per cent from 2013 and the highest number of civilian casualties from this tactic recorded in a six month period since 2009.

The use of remote-controlled IEDs increased 13 per cent, with 205 incidents causing 637 civilian casualties including 150 deaths and 487 injuries. Of utmost concern, the use of indiscriminate illegal pressure-plate IEDs experienced a resurgence in 2014, killing 161 civilians and injuring 147, with a total 308 civilian casualties, a 33 per cent increase compared to the same time period in 2013.

Suicide and complex attacks by Anti-Government Elements, the third leading cause of civilian casualties, killed 156 and injured 427, with the total of 583 civilian casualties.

In the first half of 2014, the Taliban publicly claimed responsibility for 147 attacks that resulted in 553 civilian casualties with 234 civilians killed and 319 injured. While Taliban fighters appeared to direct 76 of these attacks at military targets that indiscriminately harmed civilians, 69 attacks deliberately targeted civilians including tribal elders, civilian Government and justice sector employees, and civilians in restaurants. Attacks which fail to distinguish between a military and civilian objective and attacks that deliberately target civilians are serious violations of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes.

“We just highlight that attacks which do not distinguish between a military and civilian objective, and attacks that deliberately target civilians, are serious violations of international humanitarian law and may amount to war crimes,” Ms. Gagnon said. “All parties, including the Taliban, the anti-government elements and the other forces, are obliged to abide by international humanitarian law.”

UNAMA attributed 74 per cent of all civilian casualties to Anti-Government Elements and nine per cent to Pro-Government Forces – eight per cent to Afghan national security forces and one per cent to international military forces – while 12 per cent occurred in ground engagements between insurgents and Afghan forces which could not be attributed to a specific party. The remaining casualties were caused mainly by explosive remnants of war.

Of the 1,901 civilian casualties resulting from ground combat and crossfire, UNAMA attributed 988, or 52 per cent, to Anti-Government Elements and 274, equivalent to 14 per cent, to Pro-Government Forces, while 599, or 32 per cent, could not be attributed and 38 civilian casualties, equivalent to two per cent, resulted from cross-border shelling.

Compared with the first six months of 2009, when UNAMA began to monitor civilian casualties, the number of civilians killed by Anti-Government Elements doubled in 2014, from 599 to 1,208, while the number of civilians killed by Pro-Government forces has been cut by half, from 302 to 158, almost entirely due to reduced civilian casualties from aerial operations of international military forces.

For press release in English | Dari | Pashto

For the 2014 Mid-Year Protection of Civilians report in English

For Executive Summary of 2014 Mid-Year Protection of Civilians report in Dari

For Executive Summary of 2014 Mid-Year Protection of Civilians report in Pashto

For the transcript of press conference on release of 2014 Mid-Year Protection of Civilians Report
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