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14 Apr, 2021 15:11

UN sounds alarm over almost 30% spike in civilian casualties in Afghanistan ahead of US & NATO pullout

UN sounds alarm over almost 30% spike in civilian casualties in Afghanistan ahead of US & NATO pullout

Almost 1,800 civilians, including many women and children, were killed or wounded in the fighting between the Afghan government and the Taliban since the start of 2021, the UN said, again calling on the sides to stop the violence.

In the first three months of the year, 573 civilians were killed and 1,210 injured in Afghanistan, which is a 29% increase compared to the same period in 2020, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in a report on Wednesday.

A source of "particular concern" was that the number of killed or wounded women rose by 37%, while child casualties increased by 23%, according to the report.

The civilians became victims of "ground engagements; improvised explosive devices; and targeted killings," UNAMA said.

Insurgent groups have caused 61% percent of the casualties among the population, with the most harm delivered by Taliban (43.5%). Afghan National Army and other pro-government units were reportedly responsible for killing and wounding 27 percent of civilians so far this year.

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"Every possible opportunity for peace must be seized. If levels of violence are not immediately reduced, thousands of Afghan civilians will continue to be killed and injured by fellow Afghans in 2021," Deborah Lyons, the UN Secretary-General's Special Representative for Afghanistan, warned.

With no breakthrough in peace talks between the authorities in Kabul and the Taliban, deadly fighting has recently escalated in several Afghan regions.

Uncertainty has also been exacerbated by the imminent withdrawal of the 2,500 remaining American troops and their NATO allies from the country.

US President Joe Biden was expected to announce the pullout, which may end the longest war ever waged by Washington, later on Wednesday, with the media calling September 11, 2021 the deadline. That date represents the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the United States, which became the very reason cited for the deployment of American forces in Afghanistan in 2001.

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Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier confirmed that the US contingent will leave the turbulent country "in the weeks and months ahead" and that the rest of the NATO troops will be "out together" with them.

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