The number of civilians killed or wounded in Afghanistan last year was the highest recorded since 2009, the UN said Sunday, with children paying a particularly heavy price.
There were 11,002 civilian casualties in 2015 including 3,545 deaths, the UN said in its annual report on Afghan civilians in armed conflict, a 4% rise over the previous high in 2014.
“The harm done to civilians is totally unacceptable,” said Nicholas Haysom, the UN’s special representative for Afghanistan.
“We call on those inflicting this pain on the people of Afghanistan to take concrete action to protect civilians and put a stop to the killing and maiming.”
Fighting and attacks in populated areas and major cities were described as the main causes of civilian deaths in 2015, underscoring a push by Taliban militants into urban centres “with a high likelihood of causing civilian harm”, the report stated.
The UN began compiling the annual report in 2009.
Including Taliban-claimed attacks, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan assigned responsibility for 62% of total civilian casualties in 2015 to anti-government elements.
But the report also noted a 28% year-on-year surge in the number of casualties caused by pro-government forces, including the Afghan army and international troops.
Seventeen percent of all casualties in 2015 were caused by such forces, the report said. It was not possible to say which side caused the remaining 21% of casualties.
The report criticised Afghan forces in particular for their reliance on explosives in populated areas.
US and other international troops moved from a combat to a training, advisory and assistance role in Afghanistan on January 1, 2015, leaving Afghan forces to take the lead in fighting the resurgent militants as they targeted towns and cities.