CAUGHT IN THE CROSSFIRE

Civilian deaths and injuries from Afghanistan’s conflicts hit a record in 2015

Afghan refugees have received a cold welcome across Europe. “Large amounts of development aid have gone to Afghanistan—so we can expect that Afghans stay in their country,” said German interior minister Thomas de Maiziere last October.

But staying in Afghanistan can come at a price. Last year over 3,500 civilians were killed and more than 7,400 were injured in hostilities between government forces and the Taliban and other opposition, according to an annual report released yesterday (Feb. 14) by the United Nations Assistance Mission to Afghanistan (UNAMA). The combined total was the highest since the organization began documenting civilian casualties in 2009.

One in four of the casualties was a child, according to the report (pdf). Last year saw a 14% increase in child casualties (733 deaths and 2,096 injured) and a 37% increase in women casualties (333 deaths and 913 injured).

Ground engagements between pro- and anti-government forces, including the Taliban, killed the most civilians, mainly by crossfire. That was followed by targeted and deliberate killings. The Taliban claimed responsibility for more than half of last year’s suicide and complex attacks resulting in civilian casualties. ISIL also was involved, including in a suicide bomb attack in April 2015 that left dozens dead in the eastern city of Jalalabad.

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