UN report shows increase in violence against Afghan civiliansWednesday 31 July 2013 22.37
The withdrawal of international troops from Afghanistan has led to an increase in violence against civilians according to a United Nations Report.
The report claims that violence against civilians has risen by almost a quarter with insurgents striking in areas where troops have already left.
The report, presented by the Human Rights Director for the UN in Afghanistan, said the number of dead and injured civilians had increased by 23% in the first six months of 2013, compared to 2012.
Women and children are increasingly the victims of the 12 year war, the report said, noting a 30% leap in the number of children killed.
The total civilian death toll stood at more than 1,300, with 2,533 reported injuries.
Mounting casualties are reinforcing fears about Afghanistan's ability to tackle the Taliban insurgency on its own after most foreign troops leave next year.
The Afghan army has one of the highest desertion rates in the world and a chronic lack of logistical and medical support.
UN director in Afghanistan Georgette Gagnon has said that "the stepped-up transition of security responsibilities from international military forces to Afghan forces and closure of international forces' bases was met with increased attacks by anti-government elements".
The intensified attacks occurred "mainly at checkpoints, on strategic highways, in some areas that had been transitioned and in districts bordering neighbouring countries".
Figures released in 2012 showed a decline in civilian deaths compared to the previous year.
The UN report said bombs, or improvised explosive devices (IEDs), remained the single greatest killer, claiming 53% more victims than last year, most of them children.
Fighting between security forces and insurgents had emerged as the second most significant cause of civilian deaths, with the report putting the death toll in crossfire at 207.
Both sides were responsible for civilian deaths, but the report said almost three-quarters were caused by insurgents, who were increasingly targeting civilians seen to be cooperating with the government.
Ms Gagnon urged insurgents to "stop deliberate targeting and killing of civilians and withdraw orders that permit attacks" on legal personnel, clergy and government workers.
But the Taliban said anyone supporting President Hamid Karzai's western-backed government was a legitimate target.
Taliban spokesman Zabihullah Mujahid said: "We never consider those people as civilians who are directly involved in our country's occupation and work with sensitive organs of the enemy."