The United Nations says 26,500 civilians have been killed in the war and 49,000 others injured since 2009, the year the mission started systematically recording casualties.
The report commended government forces for reducing civilian casualties from ground engagements, including indiscriminate firing of mortars and other heavy weapons in civilian areas. In the meantime, it said, casualties caused by the insurgents’ use of homemade bombs had only increased. Roughly 40 percent of all civilian casualties — 596 deaths and 1,483 injuries — resulted from the insurgents’ use of such explosives, including suicide bombs and pressure-plate devices, the report said.
The Taliban rejected the report in a statement, calling it one-sided and politically motivated.
Homemade bombs continue to be one of the Taliban’s main weapons, one that was on display again this week as Afghan forces tried to recapture the district of Nawa in the southern province of Helmand. Long one of the safest districts in Helmand, bordering its provincial capital, Nawa fell to the Taliban last year as the group took large swaths of territory.
As Afghan forces pushed toward the district center this week, they had to defuse as many as 100 Taliban bombs, said Omar Zwak, a spokesman for the governor of Helmand. Security forces finally made it to Nawa’s district center on Monday morning.
The United Nations report said that Kabul had the most civilian casualties, largely because of suicide attacks that took many lives. Ninety-four percent of the roughly 1,000 casualties in Kabul resulted from suicide bombings, the largest of which killed more than 90 people and wounded close to 500 when a truck full of explosives went off near the city’s diplomatic enclave. (President Ashraf Ghani put the death toll from that bombing at 150.)
Credit Taimoor Shah/The New York Times
Afghanistan’s children again suffered in large numbers, making up more than a quarter of the total casualties. Child deaths were up 9 percent compared with the same period last year.
“These civilian attacks need to stop,” said David Skinner, the country director for the nongovernmental organization Save the Children. “Not only do they injure and kill innocent people in the most horrific way, but they cause untold distress and trauma, especially for children, often leading to serious psychosocial issues and impacting their longer-term development.”
The report blamed antigovernment forces for 67 percent of the civilian casualties, holding the Taliban responsible for 43 percent, the Islamic State for 5 percent and unidentified groups for 19 percent. But Afghans also suffer at the hands of government and allied forces, sometimes as they come across their unexploded ordnance.
A United States military raid last Thursday on the outskirts of Tarinkot city, the capital of Uruzgan Province in the south, resulted in civilian casualties, residents and officials said. Dust Muhammad Nayab, a spokesman for the governor of Uruzgan, said Taliban from all over had come to the rescue of the militants’ shadow governor, the target of the raid, so the fighting had become intense.
“Six civilians have been killed and 12 others injured, including women and children in the cross-fighting,” Mr. Nayab said.
Faiz Muhammad, 60, who lives on the outskirts of Tarinkot, said life had become difficult for his village even before the raid, with the Taliban warning people to leave before each offensive. He would take his family to the forested area of Sajawal, sometimes five times a month, and they would return after the fighting quieted down.
Last week, his family fled, but Mr. Muhammad stayed home to take care of the cattle. One night he heard planes, and the next morning he learned that a raid had taken place in Sajawal. Eight members of his family were killed, he said: his wife, Shapirai, 45; his son Abdul Khaliq, 28; a daughter-in-law; three other sons; and two young grandsons. Five other family members were wounded.
“My heart is just bleeding,” Mr. Muhammad said at the bedside of his 25-year-old son, Mujahid, in a hospital in nearby Kandahar. “The doctors say my son’s leg might need amputation. I am worried about his health — if they do amputate, he will be half a man.”
Capt. Bill Salvin of the United States Navy, a spokesman for the American military in Afghanistan, said the military had “looked at the tapes” and did not see evidence that civilians had been targeted. But he said a preliminary inquiry had been started, a routine response to any claim of civilian casualties.
A drastically different case of civilian casualties occurred over the weekend in Kabul, an increasingly militarized city where checkpoints and security barriers have been proliferating. Guards for a senior government official opened fire on a wedding convoy passing in front of his heavily fortified street, killing the bride and another woman.
The Kabul police said that members of the wedding convoy had fired celebratory shots into the air as they were passing the home of Hajji Mohammad Mohaqiq, deputy chief executive of the Afghan government, and that his guards had thought they were under attack. Two of the guards have been arrested, said a police spokesman, Abdul Basir Mujahid.
Source: New York Times