Afghanistan: Ground combat taking ‘devastating’ civilian toll, says UN, reporting sharp rise in casualties

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The nature of the Afghan conflict has added yet another grim dimension as ground combat among the warring parties 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, the United Nations reported today.

This “disturbing upward spiral” has meant the number of children and other vulnerable Afghans killed and wounded since the beginning of the year rose dramatically and “is proving to be devastating”, according to the sobering new survey released in Kabul by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA).

“More efforts are needed to protect civilians from the harms of conflict and to ensure accountability for those deliberately and indiscriminately killing them,” said the Director of Human Rights for UNAMA, Georgette Gagnon.

UNAMA's Human Rights Director, Georgette Gagnon, presents mid-year report on protection of civilians at a press conference in Kabul, 9 July 2014. Photo: Fardin Waezi/UNAMA

UNAMA’s Human Rights Director, Georgette Gagnon, presents mid-year report on protection of civilians at a press conference in Kabul, 9 July 2014. Photo: Fardin Waezi/UNAMA

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.

The 2014 Mid-Year Report on Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict, prepared in coordination with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), notes that 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,” said the UN Special Representative for the Secretary-General in Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, Ján Kubiš. “The impact on civilians, including the most vulnerable Afghans, is proving to be devastating.”

From 1 January to 30 June 2014, UNAMA documented 4,853 civilian casualties, up 24 per cent over the same period in 2013.

Source- UN

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