Civilian casualties in Afghanistan rose dramatically in 2014, with over 10,000 people killed or injured due to the ongoing conflict with forces opposed to the government, the United Nations reported. The new figures mark a 22 percent increase from the previous year.
On Wednesday, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a report, documenting 10,548 civilian casualties in Afghanistan in 2014, the highest in any year since 2009. These included 3,699 civilian deaths.
“In communities across Afghanistan, increased ground fighting among parties to the conflict and more IED attacks exacted a heavy toll on Afghan civilians,” Nicholas Haysom, the United Nations secretary-general’s special representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, said. “We need to see concrete steps and a real drop in civilian casualties in 2015.”
The report claimed that the rise in casualties was due to more intense ground battles between security troops and the Taliban, with several larger ground operations being reported near population centers by both sides. In these operations, civilians were frequently exposed to shelling, explosions and small arms fire.
“The wedding ceremony was transformed into a funeral when our house was hit by mortar rounds fired by the Afghan National Army,” an Afghan civilian, whose account was quoted in the report, said, referring to an incident in Helmand province in December, when a wedding party was reportedly hit by mortars fired by the Afghan army.
Half of all the casualties recorded were from explosives that affected large areas, like mortars or rockets. The number of casualties from indirect, wide-area weapons grew 73 percent from 2013.
This marks the first time since 2009 that the country saw more civilian casualties from ground fighting than other tactics, such as suicide bombs or improvised explosives. The report found that ground operations were the “biggest killers of Afghan women and children in 2014.”
The report also highlighted the role Taliban and other anti-government groups played in the conflict, and stated that these forces were responsible for 72 percent of all casualties. Fourteen percent were the work of either local Afghan forces or international military troops, the report found.
Also implicated were local militias, who were deemed responsible for 102 casualties, an 85 percent increase from 2013. The local militias remain highly controversial, being accused of major human rights violations, and President Ashraf Ghani has vowed to disband them, The New York Times reported.