Afghan civilian casualties hit all-time high, says UN

Afghan civilian casualties hit all-time high, says UN

US officials have only acknowledged possible civilian casualties in one incident in Kunduz province in November, when the United Nations said as many as 32 noncombatants were killed and 26 wounded in a joint US-Afghan raid.

Almost 11,500 civilians were killed or wounded in Afghanistan in 2016 - one third of them children - according to the United Nations, the highest number of annual non-combatant casualties since it began collecting figures in 2009. UNAMA attributes the vulnerability of children to unexploded ordinance to the fact that many children living in contested areas have never received mine-risk education.

In early August, the Taliban launched a major offensive in Helmand province, advancing on Lashkar Gah, which has 200,000 inhabitants.

The Taliban, which has been fighting the central government since 2001, called United Nations findings biased.

UNAMA's Report on the Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict in Afghanistan for 2016, released on Monday, said that the figures were the highest since it started to record civilian deaths and injuries. Both Afghan government forces and the Taliban are responsible for failing to clear civilian-populated areas of explosive remnants from the fighting.

No further details were given regarding the airstrike and it is yet not clear if the airstrike was carried out by the Afghan Air Force or the United States forces based in Afghanistan.

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Of the 11,418 casualties in 2016, 3,512 were children: 923 who died and 2,589 who were injured.

Airstrikes, including some carried out by US warplanes, accounted for 250 deaths and 340 injuries - double the 2015 figure and the highest since 2009.

Civilian casualties caused by North Atlantic Treaty Organisation forces have been one of the most contentious issues in the 15-year campaign.

After the earlier attack on Hazaras in Kabul, in October militants linked to Islamic State jihadists abducted and killed around 30 civilians, including children, in central Ghor province.

The report also documents an increase in attacks from the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria's branch in Afghanistan, known as ISKP.