The United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) stated in its annual report for last year on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict that between 1 January and 31 December, UNAMA documented 11,418 civilian casualties - 3,498 deaths and 7,920 injured; marking a two percent decrease in civilian deaths but a six percent increase in civilians injured.
The report also stated that casualties perpetrated by Daesh increased by ten times in 2016 compared to 2015.
UNAMA documented 899 civilian casualties (209 deaths and 690 injured) in comparison to 82 civilian casualties (39 deaths and 43 injured) in 2015. Daesh used suicide attacks and targeted killings as primary tactics against civilians, particularly targeting members of the Shia Muslim religious minority.
The report stated that “UNAMA notes with grave concern the almost six-fold increase in civilian casualties from attacks targeting places of worship in 2016.”
UNAMA documented 378 civilian casualties (87 deaths and 291 injured) compared to 56 civilian casualties (42 deaths and 14 injured) in 2015, mainly due to deliberate sectarian attacks targeting the Shia Muslim religious minority.
On the overall civilian casualty toll, the report stated: “These figures amount to a three percent increase in total civilian casualties compared to 2015. Since 2009, the armed conflict in Afghanistan has claimed the lives of 24,841 civilians and injured 45,347 others.”
The report pointed out that against a backdrop of protracted ground fighting, “the battlefield permeated civilian sanctuaries that should be spared from harm, with suicide attacks in mosques; targeted attacks against district centers, bazaars and residential homes; and the use of schools and hospitals for military purposes.”
In 2016, UNAMA documented record numbers of civilian casualties from ground engagements, suicide and complex attacks and explosive remnants of war, as well as the highest number of civilian casualties caused by aerial operations since 2009.
Increases in civilian deaths and injuries from these tactics drove the overall three percent rise in civilian casualties, while civilian casualties from improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and targeted and deliberate killings decreased.
UNAMA stated that as in 2015, ground engagements between anti-government elements and pro-government forces, particularly in areas populated or frequented by civilians, remained the leading cause of civilian casualties, followed by IEDs, suicide and complex attacks and targeted and deliberate killings.
In addition, the reported stated between 1 January and 31 December 2016, UNAMA documented 4,295 civilian casualties (1,070 deaths and 3,225 injured) from ground engagements, a three percent increase compared to 2015 and the highest number of civilian casualties caused by ground engagements since UNAMA started documentation in 2009. Consistent with 2015, ground engagements remained the leading cause of civilian casualties, causing 38 percent of all civilian casualties.
Pro-Government Forces caused 41 percent of all civilian casualties from ground engagements in 2016; Anti-Government Elements caused 34 percent; and 25 percent resulted from ground engagements between Anti-Government Elements and Pro-Government Forces in which UNAMA could not determine the exact perpetrator and attributed responsibility to both.
“UNAMA is particularly concerned by the persistent use of indirect and/or explosive weapons in civilian-populated areas by parties to the conflict. These weapons systems accounted for 61 percent of civilian casualties caused by ground engagements and 23 percent of all civilian casualties documented by UNAMA in 2016,” read the report.
The conflict severely impacted Afghan children in 2016. UNAMA recorded 3,512 child casualties (923 deaths and 2,589 injured), a 24 percent increase from 2015, and the highest number of child casualties recorded by UNAMA in a single year.
In 2016, UNAMA documented 1,218 women casualties (341 deaths and 877 injured), representing a two percent decrease compared to 2015.
Civilian casualties increased in five of Afghanistan’s eight regions last year with the armed conflict having most affected the southern region, which recorded 2,989 civilian casualties (1,056 deaths and 1,933 injured), a 17 percent increase compared to 2015.
The central region recorded the second highest number of civilian casualties – 2,348 civilian casualties (534 deaths and 1,814 injured) – an increase of 34 percent compared to 2015 due to suicide and complex attacks in Kabul city.
The report attributed 61 percent of all civilian casualties through attacks to anti-government elements. This was a total of 6,994 civilian casualties (2,131 deaths and 4,863 injured). Of this, UNAMA attributed 4,953 civilian casualties (1,618 deaths and 3,335 injured) to Taliban; 899 civilian casualties (209 deaths and 690 injured) to Daesh; and 1,099 civilian casualties (286 deaths and 813 injured) to unidentified anti-government elements where there was no public claim of responsibility.