Afghan Civilian Casualties Hit Record Levels in 2014

CIA_map_of_Afghanistan_in_2007
Feb. 19, 2015 – More than 10,000 civilians in Afghanistan were killed or injured last year, a 22 percent increase from 2013 and the worst year for civilians since the United Nations started collecting figures in 2009.

In all, a total of 3,699 civilians were killed and 6,849 were injured in conflict related violence in 2014 with anti-government forces responsible for 72 percent of the casualties; pro-government Afghan forces, 10 percent; and ISAF, 2 percent.

Three percent of casualties were caused by land-mines and other remnants of war that could not be attributed to either side, one percent was caused by cross-border shelling from Pakistan into Afghanistan while the responsibility for the remaining ten percent was due to ground engagements for which the perpetrator could not be determined.

The information is included in the UN Assistance Mission for Afghanistan’s (UNAMA) annual review which was released on Wednesday.

(source: UNAMA)

(source: UNAMA)

Deaths and injuries to women and children last year were also at record levels with 2,474 casualties of children, including 714 deaths, and 909 casualties among women including 298 deaths.

The use of improvised explosive devices by anti-government forces was the leading cause of civilian casualties last year, resulting in 925 deaths and 2,053 injuries.

The report also documents the Taliban’s imposition of punishment for perceived infractions of Sharia law including summary executions, beheadings, amputations of body parts, beatings, lashings and illegal detention as well as house burnings of those who expressed opposition to the group.

In addition, UNAMA says that the number of internally displaced last year increased by 156,193, an eight percent increase from 2013 with the total number of IDPs now at 805,409.

Children continue to be recruited by both pro- and anti-government forces, the report says, and it also documents incidents of sexual violence against children committed by both sides.

The drawdown of international military forces in the country has negatively impacted the safety of civilians, the report says, “in particular the reduction of combat air support to Afghan forces ground troops, provided the Taliban and other anti-Government armed groups with more opportunities to launch large-scale ground operations in some areas.”

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Civilian Casualaties Up 24 Percent in Afghanistan

600px-Flag_of_Afghanistan.svg
July 9, 2014 – Almost 5,000 Afghan civilians were killed or injured in the first six months of 2014 with women and children accounting for one-third of casualties.

The UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) documented 4,853 civilian casualties from Jan. 1 to Jun. 30 2014, up 24 percent over the same period in 2013. The toll included 1,564 civilian deaths, up 17 percent, and 3,289 injuries, up 28 percent.

Total child civilian casualties increased 34 percent in the first six months of 2014 to 1,071 with 295 children killed and 776 injured, while total women civilian casualties increased 24 percent to 440, including 148 women killed and 292 injured.

“The nature of the conflict in Afghanistan is changing in 2014 with an escalation of ground engagements in civilian-populated areas,” the head of UNAMA, Ján Kubiš,, said in a statement. “The impact on civilians, including the most vulnerable Afghans, is proving to be devastating.”

Seventy-four percent of civilian casualties were attributable to anti-government forces, according to UNAMA, with the Taliban publicly claiming responsibility for 147 attacks that resulted in 553 civilian casualties with 234 civilians killed and 319 injured.

Attacks involving suicide bombers killed 156 civilians and injured 427.

Nine percent of civilian casualties were attributed to  pro-government forces – eight percent to Afghan national security forces and one per cent to international military forces, while 12 percent occurred in ground engagements between insurgents and Afghan forces which could not be attributed to a specific party.

The remaining civilian casualties were caused by explosive remnants of war, such as landmines, UNAMA said.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

Geneva Syria Talks Yield Progress on Humanitarian Issues

Montreux Conference in Geneva
Jan. 26, 2014 –  The Syrian government will allow trapped women and children to immediately leave the old city of Homs, Lakhdar Brahimi said on Sunday.

He was speaking after the second day of face to face talks between representatives of the Syrian government and opposition in Geneva, Switzerland.

Aid agencies have for months called for a pause in fighting to allow trapped civilians to leave the city which is partially rebel-held.

Pro-Assad forces have bombarded Homs for almost three years and the government has also reportedly blocked electricity, water and phone service while families are living without heat and adequate food.

“With regard to Homs, there is an agreement now from the armed groups inside that they will not attack a humanitarian convoy if it enters Homs,” Brahimi said in Geneva, according to a transcript provided by the UN. “What I have been told by the Government side is that women and children in this besieged area in the old city are welcome to leave immediately.”

He said “other civilians are also welcome to leave, but the Government needs the list of their names first.” Asked by a reporter who recalled the Srebrenica massacre of men and boys if this list could be used to perpetrate a similar massacre, Brahimi answered: “We don’t have that fear. I don’t think we have that fear. Horrible things are happening in Syria, we don’t want anything like Srebrenica in addition to all of that. “

While the talks are aimed at finding a political solution to the crisis which will enter its fourth year in March, there’s little indication that progress has been made on this front, but Brahimi did note there is “mutual respect” between the negotiators and an awareness that the dire humanitarian situation had to be part of the talks.

“I think we all felt, and the two parties felt also, that you cannot start negotiations about Syria without having some discussions about the very, very bad humanitarian situation,” the Algerian diplomat said.

Talks are set to resume on Monday and are expected to turn to the heart of the matter: finding a political solution based on the Geneva Communique which calls for a mutually agreed transitional government with full executive powers.

– Denis Fitzgerald
On Twitter @denisfitz

photo: UN Photo/Violaine Martin