Afghan casualties ‘reach record high’

A wounded Afghan child being brought to a hospital after being injured in a mortar explosion in Kandahar on 1 July 2015Image copyright

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Children accounted for one in four casualties in 2015

The number of people killed and wounded in conflict in Afghanistan rose in 2015 to the highest level yet recorded, the UN mission in the country says.

There were 11,002 casualties in total, a 4% increase on last year’s figures. One in four casualties was a child.

The report blamed ground fighting in and around populated areas, along with suicide bombings and other attacks.

The UN’s human rights chief said such “brutal and unprincipled attacks” were forbidden under international law.

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“This is happening with almost complete impunity,” Zeid Ra’ad al-Hussein said in the report produced by the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan (Unama). “The perpetrators of the violations… must be held to account.”

Since the withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan began after 2011 and the official end of Nato’s combat mission in December 2014 , the number of civilian casualties has risen year on year.

Last year, 3,545 deaths and 7,457 injuries were reported.

Although there were 156 fewer civilian deaths compared to last year, the number of injuries soared, pushing the overall casualty figure to the highest level since the UN started keeping records in 2009.

There was a 37% increase in women casualties and a 14% increase in child casualties.

“Unprecedented numbers of children were needlessly killed and injured last year,” Unama’s Danielle Bell said in a statement.

Crossfire testimony

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STR/AFP/Getty Images

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The Taliban briefly seized Kunduz in September

A brother of a man who had gone out to fetch water for his family in Kunduz city on 1 October told the UN: “He called my mobile and said, ‘Hey brother… I was shot in my stomach… I don’t know who shot me… my injuries are serious… I can see pieces of my own intestines on my motorcycle.’

“After that, the line went dead… no-one could reach the site of the incident to take him back because of the fighting. His body remained in the streets for three days, until my relatives could recover it and bury him.”

The Taliban over-ran the northern Afghan city of Kunduz in September and left several weeks later after a counter-attack.

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The number of causalities caused by militants fell, but still constituted 62% of the total, Unama said.

Anti-government elements were increasingly using tactics to deliberately cause civilian harm and there was an indiscriminate use of pressure-plate-triggered improvised explosive device (IEDs), the report said.

The number of casualties inflicted by pro-government forces, including Nato, which continues to provide some military support, rose by 42% compared to 2014.

These were mainly attributable to the Afghan security forces during ground engagements and aerial operations.

Unama said it continued to document human rights abuses carried out by pro-government armed groups in 2015 which included “deliberate killings, assaults, extortion, intimidation and theft”.

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