The number of civilian casualties in Afghanistan reached a record high in the first half of 2021 as the conflicts continued to escalate amid US and NATO troops’ withdrawal, a UN report revealed on Monday.

“Civilian casualties in Afghanistan in the first half of 2021 reached record levels, including a particularly sharp increase in killings and injuries since May when international military forces began their withdrawal and the fighting intensified following the Taliban’s offensive,” the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in the report issued here.

The 2021 UNAMA’s Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict Midyear Report found that 1,659 civilians were killed, while 3,254 others were injured in conflicts in the first six months of the year.

The figures showed a 47 per cent increase in overall civilian casualties, including deaths and injuries, during the cited period, compared with the same period in 2020, according to the report.

“Particularly shocking and of deep concern is that women, boys and girls made up close to half of all civilian casualties in the first half of 2021. Comprising 46 per cent of all civilian casualties, 32 per cent were children – 1,682 in total and 14 per cent were women – 727 in total.

“It is sickening to report that more women and more children were killed and injured than ever before recorded by UNAMA for the first half of any calendar year,” the report said.

The leading causes of civilian casualties were the extensive use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by Taliban and other insurgents, ground engagements, targeted killings by anti-government elements, and air strikes by the Afghan Air Force, according to the report.

The report has attributed 64 per cent of civilian casualties to Taliban and other militants, 25 per cent to pro-government security forces while 11 per cent of all civilian casualties were attributed to cross-fire during ground engagements where the exact party responsible could not be determined and other incident types.

–IANS

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