More than 11,400 civilians were killed or injured in Afghanistan last year, according to a United Nations report released Monday, a record high amid rising armed clashes between the country’s coalition-backed government forces and the Taliban.
Civilian casualties increased by 3% year-on-year in 2016, including 3,498 deaths and 7,920 injured, for which both the insurgents and Afghan government forces were responsible, the report said. The UN started keeping records in 2009.
Casualties were at a record level for the second consecutive year, reflecting the deterioration in security conditions in Afghanistan since the withdrawal of most foreign troops after the North Atlantic Treaty Organization combat mission ended at the end of 2014.
“This appalling conflict destroys lives and tears communities apart in every corner of Afghanistan,” said Tadamichi Yamamoto, UN Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan.
“Real protection of civilians requires commitment and demonstrated concrete actions to protect civilians from harm.”
The rise in civilian casualties was driven by an escalation of fighting around heavily populated areas in provinces where the Taliban have sought to overrun major cities and district centers.
In October last year, the Taliban overran the provincial capital of Kunduz and threatened several other provinces, including southern Helmand and western Farah.
The escalation in attacks forced the US military to dispatch troops and air support to the besieged city centers to prop up struggling government forces, adding to the toll on the civilian population caught in the fighting.
For instance, US aircraft bombed in November a village on the outskirts of Kunduz city to rescue US and Afghan troops during a botched operation, killing 33 civilians, including many children.
The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report said that the number of child casualties in the conflict rose 24% year-on-year in 2016 to 3,512, including 923 deaths and 2,589 injured.
The Taliban were responsible for the majority of civilian casualties, equivalent to around 60% of the total, the report said, the Wall Street Journal reported.