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UN report: Civilian deaths up in Afghanistan

The number of civilians killed and wounded in Afghanistan’s war has increased dramatically. A UN report says this makes 2013 one of the most violent periods in the country’s 13-year long conflict.

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Civilian death rise in Afghanistan

Afghan civilian casualties in 2013 increased by 14 percent, according to a United Nations report released on Saturday.

The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan, UNAMA, reported 2,959 civilian casualties and 5,656 injuries during 2013.

“Armed conflict took an unrelenting toll on Afghan civilians in 2013,” said Jan Kurbis, the UN Secretary General's special representative for Afghanistan and head of the UNAMA.

Along with conflict, the report stated, roadside bombs were the biggest civilian killers last year.

Seventy-four percent of all civilian deaths, the UN said, were attributed to rebel groups including the Taliban and the Haqqani network. An additional 11 percent of civilian casualties were due to pro-government forces.

Women and children at risk

Last year, the report added, was the worst for women and children since 2009. It said 235 women were killed and 511 injured, making an increase of 36 percent on the previous year. The number of children killed reached 561, with 1,195 injured, an increase of 34 percent in the combined number of casualties.

“It is the awful reality that most women and children were killed and injured in their daily lives – at home, on their way to school, working in the fields or traveling to a social event,” Georgette Gagnon, the director of human rights for UNAMA, said.

“The situation demands even greater commitment and further efforts by the parties to protect women and children from conflict-related violence.”

The annual report suggests that “rebel forces continued to deliberately target civilians across the country and carried out attacks without regards for civilian life.”

The document indicated that 743 assassinations of government officials and tribal elders also took place in 2013. Attacks on religious leaders, it added, had tripled from the year before.

“Attacks on civilians and killings of mullahs, election workers, tribal elders and other civilians not directly participating in hostilities may amount to war crimes," it stated.

Increased vulnerability

The gradual withdrawal of foreign troops, the UN said, left the country's government forces more vulnerable to attack by insurgents, with the resulting clashes accounting for the rise in casualty numbers.

The report was released shortly before a six-year-old girl was killed when an explosive device detonated in eastern Afghanistan on Saturday. At least six people were injured in the attack.

“The incident took place this afternoon near a school in Jalalabad city, Hazrat Hussain Mashreqiwal, Nangarhar province's police spokesperson said.

The deadliest year of Afghanistan's war was 2011, when 3,133 civilians died.

jlw/tj (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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