UN: Last year saw highest number of Afghan civilian deaths

KABUL — More civilians were killed in Afghanistan last year than in any of the previous nine years of the increasingly bloody conflict, according to a U.N. report released Sunday, which blamed the spike in deaths on increased suicide bombings by the Islamic State group and stepped up aerial attacks by U.S.-led coalition forces.

In its annual report, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said 3,804 civilians were killed last year, the highest number since the international organization began tallying figures in 2009. Another 7,189 were wounded.

The report comes amid efforts to find a peaceful end to the 17-year war, which have accelerated since the appointment in September of U.S. peace envoy Zalmay Khalilzad, who is to begin another round of talks with the Taliban on Monday in the Gulf state of Qatar, where they maintain a political office.

U.N. envoy Tadamichi Yamamoto called the spiraling number of civilian casualties “deeply disturbing and wholly unacceptable.”

Tens of thousands of Afghan civilians are dispalced in their own country after fleeing fighting in their home provinces. Tens of thousands more have fled their homeland, seeking safety in neighbouring countries and in Europe.

According to the report, 63 per cent of all civilian casualties were caused by insurgents, with the breakdown blaming the Taliban for 37 per cent of the dead and wounded, the Islamic State group for 20 per cent, and a collection of other anti-government groups for the remaining 6 per cent.

Taliban spokesman Qari Yousuf Ahmadi rejected the report blaming most of the deaths on “blind U.S. bombardments.”

The government and its U.S. and NATO allies were blamed for 24 per cent of the dead and wounded civilians caught in the crossfire, many of them killed in stepped up aerial attacks, most of which are carried out by the U.S. and NATO, according to the U.N.

The report said civilian casualties at the hands of Afghan and international forces were up significantly in 2018 compared to 2017.

“For the first time since 2009 when it began systematically documenting civilian casualty figures, UNAMA recorded more than 1,000 civilian casualties from aerial operations,” the report said.

The U.S. military says it carried out 6,823 sorties last year in which munitions were fired — the highest number in the last six years.

Last year “witnessed the highest number of civilian casualties ever recorded from suicide attacks and aerial operations,” according to the report.

Since the U.N. began documenting civilian casualties 10 years ago, more than 32,000 civilians have been killed and another 60,000 wounded.

“It is time to put an end to this human misery and tragedy,” said Yamamoto. “The best way to halt the killings and maiming of civilians is to stop the fighting. That is why there is all the more need now to use all our efforts to bring about peace.”

The U.S. and the Taliban have openly embraced a strategy of talking while fighting, with the Taliban carrying out near-daily attacks on Afghanistan’s beleaguered security forces.

Afghan Forces are battling the Taliban throughout the country with support from their U.S.-led coalition allies. The coalition and Afghanistan’s security forces have also been pounding Islamic State positions, particularly in eastern Afghanistan, where the affiliate is based.

Kathy Gannon, The Associated Press

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Olds RCMP bust nets guns, drugs and copper wire

Three people from Olds and a Calgary man facing numerous charges

Opposition promises new info on Trans Mountain costs

OTTAWA — Federal opposition parties are promising new information about the price… Continue reading

Bed Bath & Beyond rises as retailer unveils turnaround plan

Shares of Bed Bath & Beyond are moving sharply higher before the… Continue reading

Inflation rises again, hitting 2.4 per cent in January, Statistics Canada says

OTTAWA — Statistics Canada says the annual pace of inflation in Canada… Continue reading

Hereditary chiefs say they’ll meet with ministers if RCMP get out

VANCOUVER — A small, mobile RCMP detachment in a remote area of… Continue reading

Your community calendar

Feb. 19 A Liberation of Holland event is being held at the… Continue reading

New highway to B.C. proposed

The Howse Pass shortcut to British Columbia is worth taking another look… Continue reading

Stolen car provides opportunity to try out public transit

I had my car stolen on Jan. 10, just as our one… Continue reading

Any other protesters would be sitting in jail by now

I’d really like to know why the current Indigenous pipeline blockades aren’t… Continue reading

Wolfpack hooker James Cunningham out for six months after hamstring surgery

The Toronto Wolfpack’s depleted squad has taken another hit with James Cunningham… Continue reading

Virologist: Tokyo Olympics probably couldn’t be held now

TOKYO — A respected Japanese virologist on Wednesday said if the Tokyo… Continue reading

Bong happy ‘Parasite’ succeeded despite disparity it showed

SEOUL, Korea, Republic Of — Oscar-winning “Parasite” director Bong Joon-ho said Wednesday… Continue reading

Vancouver-raised Kenneth Lum among winners of $25K Governor General’s art awards

OTTAWA — Vancouver-bred contemporary artist Kenneth Lum, whose works have challenged notions… Continue reading

Most Read