Afghan civilian deaths hit new high, says UN

Govt forces take district from Taliban; 3 officers killed

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Afghan volunteers carry the body of a resident killed in a car bomb attack to the Wazir Akbar Khan hospital in Kabul in this May 31, 2017 file photo. — AFP

KABUL — The people of war-torn Afghanistan continue to bear the brunt of the grinding conflict with civilian deaths at their worst since records began, the United Nations said Monday.

In the first half of the year, 1,662 civilians were killed and more than 3,500 injured with deaths in the capital Kabul accounting for nearly 20 percent of the toll, according to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) report.

The majority of the victims were killed by anti-government forces — including the resurgent Taliban and in attacks claimed by Daesh (the so-called IS), the report said, underscoring spiraling insecurity in the country nearly 16 years after the US invasion.

The UN has documented civilian casualties in the war-ravaged country since 2009.

The first six months of the year have seen a significant rise in the number of civilian lives lost in highly coordinated attacks involving more than one perpetrator, with 259 killed and 892 injured — a 15 percent increase on the same period last year.

Many of those deaths happened in a single attack in Kabul in late May when a truck bomb exploded during the morning rush hour, killing more than 150 people and injuring hundreds.

UNAMA put the civilian death toll at 92, saying it was the deadliest incident to hit the country since 2001.

The UN’s special envoy to Afghanistan Tadamichi Yamamoto said the human cost of the conflict remains “far too high.”

“Meanwhile in another development, Afghan forces have retaken a key southern district from the Taliban while in a western province, insurgents on Monday snatched three officers from their car, including a woman, and killed them, officials said.

The country’s security forces drove the Taliban out of Naway district in southern Helmand province from where they had been threatening the provincial capital of Lashkar Gah, said Defense Ministry spokesman, Daulat Waziri.

The battle to recapture the district had been fierce, with more than 50 Taliban fighters killed and five security forces wounded, he said. Naway is located just 16 km from Lashkar Gah, and had been a staging arena for militant attacks on the city.

Government troops also captured a large cache of ammunitions and guns. The Taliban did not immediately comment on reports of the district’s fall. US and NATO troops are in Helmand to assist Afghan security forces when needed.

Separately, in western Herat province on the border with Iran, three border police officers were snatched from their vehicle and killed by the Taliban, said Jelani Farhad, the provincial governor’s spokesman. A female officer was among the dead.

The officers were driving to their office in the district of Kushk in Herat province when they were ambushed by Taliban, dragged from their vehicle and shot, said Farhad. — Agencies


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