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UN: More children dying in violence

Published:Sunday | February 9, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Afghan security forces personnel investigate the site of a suicide attack and shooting in Kabul. - File


The number of children killed and wounded in Afghanistan's war jumped by 34 per cent last year as the Taliban stepped up attacks across the country and continued to lay thousands of roadside bombs, the United Nations said yesterday.

Overall civilian casualties were up by 14 per cent, reversing 2012's downward trend and making 2013 one of the deadliest years of the 12-year war for civilians, the United Nations Assistance Mission for Afghanistan said in a report.

The rising civilian toll underscores mounting levels of violence in Afghanistan. Taliban insurgents have ramped up attacks to try to gain ground and shake the Afghan government's confidence as international combat troops prepare to complete their withdrawal at the end of the year.

The UN report also noted an "alarming" new trend for 2013 - the increasing numbers of civilians being harmed in fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces.

It recorded a total of 962 battles in which civilians were harmed last year - an average rate of nearly 20 such battles every week - and said civilian casualties caused by such fighting rose by 43 per cent over the previous year.

In terms of deaths and injuries, 2013 was also the worst year of the war for Afghan women and children, with most of the casualties caused by either stepping on or driving over roadside bombs or getting caught in fighting.


"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 travelling to a social event," said Georgette Gagnon, director of human rights for the UN mission, calling on all sides to work to protect civilians from harm.

UNAMA said 561 children were killed and 1,195 were wounded in 2013, a rise of 34 per cent in the combined number of casualties. Also last year, 235 women died and 511 were wounded, a rise of 36 per cent in combined casualties.

The report blamed insurgents for 74 per cent of the civilian casualties. Afghan police and army were responsible for eight per cent of the casualties and international coalition forces for three per cent, the report said, while 10 per cent could not be blamed solely on either side and the responsibility for the remaining per cent was unknown.