Afghanistan suffered more than 10,000 civilian casualties in 2017, as deadly suicide and complex attacks killed and injured more people than any previous year in the war-torn country, according to the UN.
In its annual report released on Thursday, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the UN Human Rights Office, documented 3,438 deaths and 7,015 injuries – a decline from the record-high figure in 2016.
“The chilling statistics in this report provide credible data about the war’s impact, but the figures alone cannot capture the appalling human suffering inflicted on ordinary people, especially women and children,” Tadamichi Yamamoto, the secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan, said in a statement.
At nearly 2,300, 2017 recorded the highest number of civilian casualties from suicide and complex attacks in a single year since the UN mission began documentation in 2009.
The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) – suicide and non-suicide – by armed groups led to the majority of the casualties last year, with ground engagements accounting for the second-highest number of victims.
“I am particularly appalled by the continued indiscriminate and unlawful use of IEDs such as suicide bombs and pressure-plate devices in civilian populated areas,” Yamamoto said. “This is shameful.”
The report attributed 42 percent of the casualties to the Afghan Taliban, while noting an increase in victims of attacks by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group, which was responsible for 10 percent of the casualties.
Pro-government forces, including Afghan national security forces and international military forces caused a fifth of the civilian casualties.
Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, called for the “perpetrators to be held accountable”.
“The people of Afghanistan, year after year, continue to live in insecurity and fear, while those responsible for ending lives and blighting lives escape punishment,” he said in a statement.
“Such attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian law and are likely, in most cases, to constitute war crimes.”
This year, a wave of attacks by armed groups have killed nearly 150 people in recent weeks.
On May 31, in the deadliest attack in the Afghan capital, at least 150 people were killed after a massive truck bomb ripped through the heart of Kabul’s diplomatic district.
To date, no group has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Despite the decline in overall figures, Danielle Bell, UNAMA’s human right director, said, “Much more needs to be done.”
“It is the fourth consecutive year where we’ve seen more than 10,000 civilians killed or injured,” she told Al Jazeera from Kabul.
“It has indeed been a difficult year.”
“While we did see an improvement on the battlefield by Taliban and pro-government forces, more still needs to be done.”
Women, children affected
Women and children continued to bear the brunt of the armed conflict.
UNAMA reported a five percent rise in female deaths at 359, with 865 injured.
Total child casualties stood at 3,179 (861 killed and 2,318 injured) – an overall 10 percent decrease compared with 2016.
“We cannot sleep day and night due to the frightening sounds of firing,” an 11-year-old girl injured by a bullet during a ground engagement in Arghandab district, Zabul province in September, told UNAMA.
The UN agency also reported cases of sexual abuse and child recruitment by Afghan national security forces and anti-government elements.