Info Service on UN Sustainable Development (Feb18/10)
19 February 2018
Third World Network
Over 10,000 civilian casualties in Afghan conflict last year
Published in SUNS #8623 dated 16 February 2018
Geneva, 15 Feb (Kanaga Raja) - Civilians continued to suffer the effects
of armed conflict in Afghanistan throughout 2017, with 10,453 civilian
casualties (3,438 deaths and 7,015 injured) being documented between
1 January and 31 December of that year, according to a new United
Released by the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the
UN Human Rights Office on 15 February, the report covers the period
from 1 January to 31 December 2017.
According to the report, the civilian casualties documented in 2017
represented an overall decrease of nine per cent compared to 2016
and the first year-on-year decrease recorded by UNAMA since 2012.
"While the number of civilian deaths reduced by two per cent
from 2016 and the number of civilians injured decreased by 11 per
cent, the overall continuation of high numbers of civilian casualties
underscores the enormous human cost of the ongoing armed conflict,"
Between 1 January 2009 and 31 December 2017, the armed conflict in
Afghanistan claimed the lives of 28,291 civilians and injured 52,366
"The chilling statistics in this report provide credible data
about the war's impact, but the figures alone cannot capture the appalling
human suffering inflicted on ordinary people, especially women and
children," said Tadamichi Yamamoto, the United Nations Secretary-General's
Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA.
"I am particularly appalled by the continued indiscriminate and
unlawful use of IEDs such as suicide bombs and pressure-plate devices
in civilian populated areas. This is shameful," he said, in a
UN news release.
"Afghan civilians have been killed going about their daily lives
- travelling on a bus, praying in a mosque, simply walking past a
building that was targeted. The people of Afghanistan, year after
year, continue to live in insecurity and fear, while those responsible
for ending lives and blighting lives escape punishment," said
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad Al Hussein.
"Such attacks are prohibited under international humanitarian
law and are likely, in most cases, to constitute war crimes. The perpetrators
must be identified and held accountable," he added.
According to the UN report, the nine per cent decrease in civilian
casualties in 2017 mainly resulted from less harm to civilians caused
by ground fighting compared to 2016, while civilian casualties from
suicide and complex attacks continued to rise.
Such attacks caused 22 per cent of all civilian casualties in Afghanistan
in 2017, with 16 per cent of all civilian casualties during the year
occurring from such attacks in Kabul city.
Civilian casualties from suicide and complex attacks countrywide increased
by 17 per cent compared to 2016.
As a result, 2017 recorded the highest number of civilian casualties
from suicide and complex attacks in a single year in Afghanistan since
the mission began systematic documentation of civilian casualties
in 2009, said the report.
The combined use of suicide improvised explosive devices (IEDs) and
non-suicide IEDs by Anti-Government Elements accounted for most civilian
casualties in 2017 - particularly indiscriminate and unlawful use
of IEDs such as suicide bombs and pressure-plate devices in civilian
Combined IED tactics caused 4,151 civilian casualties (1,229 deaths
and 2,922 injured), comprising 40 per cent of all civilian casualties
The majority of civilian casualties caused by these devices occurred
in the context of suicide and complex attacks, followed by pressure-plate
UNAMA said that of particular concern was the significant increase
recorded in sectarian-motivated suicide and complex attacks, as well
as the deadliest single suicide attack from a large suicide vehicle-borne
IED, on 31 May, in Kabul city centre.
After combined IED tactics, ground engagements caused the second highest
number of civilian casualties in 2017.
Following record levels of civilian casualties from ground engagements
in 2016, UNAMA documented a 19 per cent decrease in civilian casualties
from ground fighting between Anti-Government Elements and Pro- Government
Forces in 2017. It recorded 3,484 civilian casualties (823 deaths
and 2,661 injured).
The decrease in civilian casualties from ground engagements resulted
from a reduction in the number of civilians killed and injured from
the use of indirect fire - mainly from mortars - by both Pro-Government
Forces and Anti- Government Elements.
UNAMA also documented what it said was a disturbing increase in attacks
against places of worship, religious leaders and worshippers, recording
499 civilian casualties (202 deaths and 297 injured) during 38 attacks
This amounted to three times as many attacks as in 2016, double the
number of deaths and 30 per cent more in total civilian casualties.
The mission was also deeply concerned by the significant increase
in sectarian-motivated attacks targeting Shi'a Muslim congregations,
mostly perpetrated by Daesh/ISIL-KP (Islamic State Khorasan Province).
IMPACT OF ARMED CONFLICT ON WOMEN
UNAMA noted that the armed conflict in Afghanistan continued to kill
and maim women at levels similar to 2016.
In 2017, UNAMA documented 1,224 women casualties (359 deaths and 865
injured), an increase of less than one per cent, reversing the trend
of decrease in women casualties observed in 2016.
Women deaths increased by five per cent compared to 2016, and women
again comprised 12 per cent of conflict- related civilian casualties
Anti-Government Elements caused an increasing number of women casualties,
with 629 casualties (198 deaths and 431 injured), a 13 per cent increase
compared to 2016, causing 51 per cent of total women casualties in
Pro-Government forces caused 390 women casualties (105 deaths and
285 injured), a 19 per cent decrease from 2016, accounting for 32
per cent of total women casualties in 2017.
Un-attributed crossfire between Pro-Government Forces and Anti-Government
Elements during ground fighting caused 184 women casualties (50 deaths
and 134 injured), an 18 per cent increase from 2016, comprising 15
per cent of total women casualties.
Ground engagements remained the leading cause of women casualties,
though UNAMA recorded a decrease of 11 per cent in such casualties
from 2016, mostly due to a 34 per cent decrease in women casualties
attributed to Pro-Government Forces during ground engagements.
UNAMA also recorded a reduction in women killed and injured by non-suicide
IEDs (including pressure-plate IEDs).
"Suicide and complex attacks in civilian populated areas increasingly
killed and maimed women, with more than double the number of women
casualties resulting from such incidents in 2017," said UNAMA.
Women casualties from aerial operations also increased, with airstrikes
causing 22 per cent more women casualties in 2017 than in 2016.
Women increasingly suffered due to the rise in suicide and complex
attacks targeting places of worship, some of which included deliberate
attempts to target female sections of mosques.
For example, on 25 August, gunmen opened fire on worshippers in a
mosque in Kabul city, killing 13 women and a girl, and injuring 22
women and a girl praying on the second floor of the mosque. The attack
caused 100 civilian casualties (35 deaths and 65 injured).
UNAMA documented 58 women casualties (36 deaths and 22 injured) from
incidents of targeted and deliberate killings, including 34 casualties
(27 deaths and seven injured) resulting from attacks deliberately
Anti-Government Elements intentionally targeted women for reasons
such as accusations of providing support to the Government, committing
"immoral acts", and serving as police officers.
CHILDREN AND ARMED CONFLICT
According to UNAMA, throughout 2017, conflict-related violence continued
to kill and injure children.
Whilst noting an overall decrease in the number of victims, children
casualties accounted for 30 per cent of all civilian casualties.
UNAMA recorded 3,179 child casualties (861 deaths and 2,318 injured),
an overall 10 per cent decrease compared to 2016, with decreases in
both fatalities and injuries.
As in 2016, boys comprised 71 per cent of the casualties among children,
and girls made up 29 per cent.
UNAMA attributed 44 per cent of child casualties to Anti-Government
Elements, who were responsible for 1,384 child casualties (330 deaths
and 1,054 injured), a five per cent decrease compared to 2016.
Pro-Government Forces caused 913 child casualties (313 deaths and
600 injured), and were responsible for 29 per cent of all child casualties,
marking a 19 per cent decrease from the previous year.
Despite a decrease of 19 per cent compared with 2016, the leading
cause of child casualties remained ground engagements between Anti-Government
Elements and Pro-Government Forces, accounting for nearly half of
Of the casualties caused by ground engagements, those due to the use
of indirect weapons - such as mortars, rockets and grenades - decreased
by 30 per cent, with 887 casualties (194 deaths and 693 injured).
UNAMA documented 534 child casualties (126 deaths and 408 injured)
caused by shooting during ground engagements, an increase of 32 per
cent compared to 2016.
Of concern was that aerial operations caused substantially more deaths
and injuries among children in 2017, with casualties from airstrikes
increasing by 33 per cent compared to 2016.
UNAMA documented 266 child casualties (114 deaths and 152 injured)
generated by such incidents in 2017.
In one case, on 30 August, an airstrike by international military
forces targeting Taliban fighters who were firing heavy weaponry,
killed 10 children and injured six others in Pul-e-Alam District,
Equally concerning was that child casualties in the context of search
operations conducted by Pro-Government Forces, including the Afghan
Local Police, the Afghan National Army, the National Directorate of
Security, and joint operations between the Afghan national security
forces and international military, more than tripled compared to 2016,
causing 43 child casualties (29 deaths and 14 injured).
UNAMA recorded 207 child casualties (31 deaths and 176 injured) caused
by suicide and complex attacks, an increase of 34 per cent compared
For example, on 1 August, in Herat city, Anti-Government Elements
killed five children and injured four others during a suicide attack
targeting a mosque.
Non-suicide IEDs caused two per cent fewer child casualties compared
to 2016, with 545 casualties (160 deaths and 385 injured) documented
by UNAMA in 2017.
Child casualties from remote-detonated IEDs decreased, while child
casualties from pressure-plate IEDs increased.
UNAMA also documented 18 incidents involving the abduction of 42 children
(40 boys and two girls) by Anti Government-Elements.
Throughout 2017, UNAMA continued to receive reports of recruitment
and use of children by Anti-Government Elements and the Afghan security
From 1 January to 31 December 2017, it verified the recruitment and
use of 83 boys, including 20 in western region, 16 in north eastern
region, 14 in southern region, nine in both central highland and south
eastern regions, eight in eastern region, five in northern region
and two in central region.
Children are inter alia recruited to function as bodyguards, assist
in intelligence gathering, plant IEDs, carry out suicide attacks and
participate in hostilities.
ATTRIBUTION OF CIVILIAN CASUALTIES
In 2017, UNAMA attributed the majority of civilian casualties - 65
per cent - to Anti-Government Elements, with 42 per cent attributed
to Taliban, 10 per cent to Daesh/Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISIL-KP),
and 13 per cent to undetermined and other Anti-Government Elements.
Pro-Government Forces caused 20 per cent of civilian casualties in
2017 (16 per cent by Afghan national security forces, two per cent
by international military forces, one per cent each by pro-Government
armed groups and undetermined pro-Government forces).
In 2017, Anti-Government Elements caused 6,768 civilian casualties
(2,303 deaths and 4,465 injured), a three per cent decrease compared
"This decrease is mainly explained by fewer civilian casualties
caused by Anti-Government Elements using indirect fire such as mortars,
rockets and grenades during ground engagements, and fewer civilian
injuries from targeted killings and non-suicide IEDs, particularly
remote-detonated IEDs", said UNAMA.
UNAMA documented a rise in civilian casualties caused by Anti-Government
Elements (particularly Daesh/ ISIL-KP) during suicide and complex
attacks as well as an increase in incidental civilian deaths and injuries
from bullets fired by Anti-Government Elements during ground engagements,
particularly during ground attacks against police check posts.
UNAMA attributed 4,385 civilian (1,574 deaths and 2,811 injured) to
Taliban, a 12 per cent decrease from 2016, comprising 42 per cent
of all civilian casualties in 2017.
Of these incidents, the group publically claimed responsibility for
179 attacks that resulted in 1,166 civilian casualties (345 deaths
and 821 injured).
UNAMA attributed 1,000 civilian casualties (399 deaths and 601 injured)
- 10 per cent of total civilian casualties - to Daesh/ISIL-KP, an
11 per cent increase from 2016.
The group claimed responsibility for 24 attacks (mostly targeting
civilians) that caused 823 civilian casualties (300 deaths and 523
UNAMA attributed a further 1,389 civilian casualties (330 deaths and
1,059 injured) to unidentified and other Anti-Government Elements.
UNAMA attributed 2,108 civilian casualties (745 deaths and 1,363 injured)
to Pro-Government Forces in 2017, a 23 per cent decrease compared
to last year.
"This decrease was mainly linked to the significant reduction
in civilian casualties from indirect weapons such as mortars during
As in 2016, said UNAMA, more than half of the civilian casualties
caused by Pro-Government Forces in 2017 occurred incidentally during
ground fighting with Anti-Government Elements.
Following ground engagements, aerial operations remained the second
leading cause of civilian casualties attributed to Pro-Government
UNAMA documented 631 civilian casualties (295 deaths and 336 injured)
from aerial operations, a seven per cent increase compared to 2016,
including an 18 per cent increase in deaths.
The Afghan Air Force caused 309 civilian casualties (99 deaths and
210 injured), while airstrikes by the international military forces
caused 246 civilian casualties (154 deaths and 92 injured).
UNAMA also documented 76 civilian casualties (42 deaths and 34 injured)
from airstrikes carried out by un-determined Pro-Government Forces.
In 2017, UNAMA documented 639 civilian casualties (164 deaths and
475 injured) as a result of explosive remnants of war, marking a 12
per decrease from 2016 and the first year-on-year decrease recorded
since UNAMA began documenting civilian casualties in 2009.
"The decrease may be attributed to correlated reductions in civilian
casualties from the use of indirect fire from weapons such as mortars,
rockets, and grenades in civilian populated areas, particularly by
Pro-Government Forces," it said.
Other factors such as the clearance of explosive remnants of war from
the battlefield, together with ongoing education programs and the
marking of suspect hazard areas also contributed to the 12 per cent
Additionally, changes in conflict dynamics related to ground fighting
likely played an important role in reducing civilian casualties from
explosive remnants of war.
Despite the decrease compared to 2016, levels of civilian casualties
from unexploded ordnance remained far above figures recorded in 2015
Explosive remnants of war continued to disproportionately impact children,
who comprised 81 per cent of all casualties in 2017.
UNAMA documented 518 child casualties (142 deaths and 376 injured)
from explosive remnants of war, including 440 boys.
Children who survived encounters with explosive remnants of war lost
legs, arms and eye-sight, and suffered other serious injuries and
psychological trauma, limiting their prospects for a normal life.
In many instances, those children killed and injured by explosive
remnants of war had come across the devices while searching for scrap
metal to sell and mostly picked up, played with, and/or threw stones
at the devices, or brought the device home.
UNAMA also said that it is concerned at the significant increase in
civilian casualties caused by shelling from Pakistan into Afghanistan,
with 29 incidents recorded in 2017, that caused 71 civilian casualties
(23 deaths and 48 injured) - over triple of incidents and more than
four times the number of civilian casualties compared to 2016.
Shelling from Pakistan into Afghanistan impacted civilians mainly
in the Nangarhar and Kunar provinces, accounting for 42 civilian casualties
(16 deaths and 26 injured) due to 23 incidents.
It also caused the displacement of over 650 families and the destruction
of more than 25 homes as well as livestock and other property, said