The number of Afghans killed or wounded by air strikes rose 39 percent in the first nine months of 2018, the UN said Wednesday, as the overall number of civilian casualties remained at “extreme levels”.
Air strikes killed or wounded 649 Afghans, more than any full-year period since the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) began keeping records in 2009, as US and Afghan forces stepped up aerial bombardments.
That figure accounted for eight percent of overall civilian casualties for the January to September period, which slipped to 8,050 — 2,798 dead and 5,252 injured — UNAMA said.
“Every civilian death leaves a family devastated, grieving and struggling to come to terms with the loss, and each civilian injured or maimed causes untold suffering,” said Danielle Bell, UNAMA´s human rights chief. International forces accounted for 51 percent of the civilian casualties caused by air strikes, the report said. Afghan forces made up 38 percent. The United States is the only foreign force known to carry out air strikes in Afghanistan. US and Afghan forces have dramatically increased air offensives against Taliban and Daesh insurgents in the past year as they try to get the upper hand in the 17-year war.
US forces employed 746 weapons in July, which was the highest monthly total since November 2010, the most recent US Air Forces Central Command data shows. That is more than double the 350 munitions used in July 2017, a month before US President Donald Trump announced his new strategy for Afghanistan that gave American forces greater leeway to go after militants.
Afghanistan´s fledgling air force has also accelerated bombardments as the United States beefs up the country´s aerial capability with more aircraft and better weapons. The latest civilian casualties report follows two air strikes in recent weeks that UNAMA´s initial findings show killed more than 20 people from two families.
Improvised explosive devices, including suicide bombs, remained the leading cause of civilian casualties in the first nine months, rising 21 percent to 3,634, the report said.. —AFP