Citing "record" civilian casualties--over 100 since late February's peace deal—UNAMA on Wednesday issued a statement urging all parties to further reduce levels of violence, protect civilians, and work towards a ceasefire.
UNAMA echoes Monday’s call by the Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, for a global ceasefire, so that the necessary focus and resources can be provided to combating the COVID-19 pandemic, a serious threat to all Afghans, the UNAMA statement said.
“A reduction in violence leading to a ceasefire would save lives, provide parties with a more conducive environment to commence intra-Afghan peace negotiations and would enable better preparations to combat the looming health crisis posed by COVID-19,” it said.
Despite some de-escalation in hostilities following the end of February announcement for a reduction in violence, UNAMA continues to record conflict-related civilian casualties with more than 100 killed and many more injured in the 1-25 March period, it said.
A significant proportion of these civilian casualties were caused by Daesh, which claimed responsibility for an attack at a Sikh-Hindu temple on Wednesday in Kabul that killed and injured dozens of civilians, as well as for the March 6 attack at a commemoration in the capital that killed 34 civilians and injured scores more.
UNAMA attributed civilian casualties to the other warring parties as well:
“The Taliban has been responsible for a high number of civilian casualties, mainly from non-suicide improvised explosive devices and targeted killings," the statement read.
Also, while UNAMA noted "fewer civilian casualties attributed to Afghan national security forces," it is "seriously concerned" by incidents such as the March 21 "Afghan Air Force strike in Kunduz that killed 11, mainly women and children,” according to the statement.
UNAMA emphasized that the best way to protect civilians from conflict and the evolving health crisis is to stop the fighting altogether.
“The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war,” said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world… End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now.”