Kabul: At least 1,783 civilian casualties were recorded in the first three months of the year, as per the first-quarter report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflicts 2021. UNAMA in a recent report found that the number of civilians killed and injured in the initial three months of 2021 was higher than the previous year.
The civilian death toll reached 573 and 1,210 others were recorded as injured, which shows a 29 percent increase in the violence since the last year. As violence continues unabated a 37 percent increase was recorded in the death and injury toll of women and a 23 percent increase was reported in child casualties compared with the first quarter of 2020.
Deborah Lyons, Secretary-General Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA said in the report that, “The number of Afghan civilians killed and maimed, especially women and children, is deeply disturbing. I implore the parties to urgently find a way to stop this violence”.
Peace negotiations were initiated in September of last year, gave hopes for stable security and improvement in the situation for civilians but during the six months between October 2020 and March 2021 UNAMA a 38 percent increase in civilian casualties compared with the same period of the previous year.
“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,” Lyons said.
The same trends drove the overall increase of civilian casualties in the first quarter of 2021, which includes ground engagements, IEDs, and targeted killings, UNAMA said in the report.
Bodies responsible for the majority a 61 percent of civilians casualties are anti-government elements in the first quarter of 2021, 27 percent of the total civilian casualties were caused by pro-government forces in the same quarter. At least 43.5 percent overall civilian casualties were attributed to the Taliban and the Afghan National Army was blamed for 17 percent of the overall civilian casualties in the UNAMA report.
UNAMA stated that the organization remains deeply concerned about the continued targeting of civilians by anti-government elements, particularly targeting civilians including media workers, civil society activists, targeted killings of women, members of the judiciary, and civilian government administration.
The increase in violence comes as the Afghan government and the Taliban are involved in clashes and counter-clashes ahead of the Istanbul Summit scheduled to be held from April 26. Meanwhile, the United States has announced that it will withdraw its troops from Afghanistan by September this year. Following the US announcement, Western media quoted sources as saying that Britain and NATO would also withdraw their troops from Afghanistan by September.
The US, UN and Qatar are planning a peace summit in Istanbul with the Afghan government and the Taliban to chalk out a future roadmap for the country. Taliban has refused to participate in any peace talks till the troops have been withdrawn, while the Afghan government is ready with a unified peace plan for the April 26 summit.