Afghanistan: Civilian Casualties and Child Deaths Hit Record High in 2016

Afghanistan Children
Afghan children who work at a brick factory collect water from a water pump near Jalalabad on July 20, 2016. The U.N. said civilian fatalities in Afghanistan had hit record numbers this year, and child deaths had surged. Noorullah Shirzada/AFP/Getty Images

Conflict emanating from the ongoing insurgencies by the Taliban and the Islamic State militant group (ISIS) in Afghanistan killed and wounded a record number of civilians in the first half of 2016, the United Nations (U.N.) said on Monday.

The global body said that 1,601 civilians lost their lives and 3,565 in the first six months of 2015. Both radical Islamist groups are attempting to topple the Western-backed government of President Ashraf Ghani, in a bid to create an Islamic state in the country.

This represented a total of 5,166 civilians killed or maimed in the country, a half-year record since the U.N. started recording figures in 2009.

The figures come just days after the deadliest attack in Kabul since 2001, claimed by ISIS, in which two suicide bombers targeted a protest by the Shia Hazara minority group in the Afghan capital, killing at least 80 people and wounding 230 more. The attack is ISIS’s biggest-ever in Afghanistan but the death toll was not included in the latest U.N. figures.

Groups battling government forces were responsible for almost two-thirds (60 percent) of all of the deaths, while Afghan troops were responsible for just over a fifth (22 percent) of the deaths. International troops in the country accounted for two percent and 17 percent could not be attributed, the report said.

The figures represent a 47 percent increase in the casualties caused by government forces in comparison with the same time period last year. It is the first instance that Afghan air strikes have caused more casualties than strikes by international parties.

“Every civilian casualty represents a failure of commitment and should be a call to action for parties to the conflict to take meaningful, concrete steps to reduce civilians' suffering and increase protection,” the U.N.’s top official in Afghanistan, Tadamichi Yamamoto, said in the report.

“Platitudes not backed by meaningful action ring hollow over time. History and the collective memory of the Afghan people will judge leaders of all parties to this conflict by their actual conduct.”

The report also showed that 1,500 children were killed and wounded in the conflict during the first six months of the year, the highest-ever toll the U.N. has recorded.

ISIS is battling the Taliban for territory in the country’s eastern provinces and the group has steadily grown in influence in the country that has been wracked by conflict since the U.S. coalition invasion in 2001.