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15 Feb, 2018

KABUL – More than 10,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in violence last year, the United Nations said on Thursday, with militant bombings the main cause while air strikes by US and government forces inflicted a rising toll.

US President Donald Trump introduced a more aggressive US strategy in Afghanistan in August including a surge in air strikes. The militants have responded with attacks in Kabul in the past few weeks, killing nearly 150 people.

The overall civilian toll last year of 3,438 killed and 7,015 wounded was 9% lower than the previous year. But the figures highlighted the high number of casualties caused by militant bombs, the United Nations said.

“Attacks where anti-government elements deliberately targeted civilians accounted for 27% of the total civilian casualties … mainly from suicide and complex attacks,” the United Nations said in a statement.

The deadliest attack since the UN mission began recording civilian casualties in 2009 was in Kabul on May 31 when a suicide attacker detonated a truck bomb, killing 92 civilians and injuring 491.

Two-thirds of all casualties last year were inflicted by anti-government forces, with the Taliban responsible for 42%, Islamic State 10% and 13% caused by undetermined anti-government elements.

Pro-government forces caused a fifth of civilian casualties with 16% attributed to Afghan forces, 2% to international forces and 1% each to pro-government armed groups and undetermined pro-government forces, the United Nations said.

The air campaign by international and government forces accounted for 6% of civilian casualties in 2017, with 295 people killed and 336 wounded, a 7% increase over the previous year.

While ground clashes were the second leading cause of civilian casualties, that toll was 19% lower than a record level seen in 2016.

Women and children were heavily affected by the violence with 359 women killed last year, an increase of 5% over the previous year – and 865 injured.

The number of child casualties – 861 killed and 2,318 wounded – was 10% lower than 2016.

“Afghan civilians have been killed going about their daily lives – travelling on a bus, praying in a mosque, simply walking past a building that was targeted,” UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra‘ad al Hussein said in a statement.

“Such attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law and are likely, in most cases, to constitute war crimes. The perpetrators must be identified and held accountable.”(Agencies)

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