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UN: Civilian Deaths In Afghanistan Hit Record High

Afghan officials carry the dead body of a victim at the site of a suicide bomb attack near a Shi'ite mosque in Kabul on March 9.
Afghan officials carry the dead body of a victim at the site of a suicide bomb attack near a Shi'ite mosque in Kabul on March 9.

The United Nations says the number of civilians killed in Afghanistan has reached a record high in the first half of the year, despite last month's cease-fire.

Deaths rose 1 percent to 1,692, although injuries dropped 5 percent to 3,430, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) said in its latest civilian casualty report released on July 15.

The UN says the number is the highest six-month death toll since the systematic documentation of civilian casualties started in 2009.

Overall civilian casualties were down 3 percent since last year.

Ground engagements between security forces and militants, roadside bombs, militant attacks, and suicide bombings claimed by the extremist group Islamic State (IS) and the Taliban were the main causes for the record-high death toll.

"The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in attacks by Anti-Government Elements remained the leading cause of civilian casualties," the UN said.

"The combined use of suicide and non-suicide IEDs caused nearly half of all civilian casualties," it added.

The report said that civilians living in the provinces of Kabul, Nangarhar, Faryab, Helmand, and Kandahar were most impacted by the violence.

Hundreds of civilians were killed in attacks on targets such as Shi'ite shrines, government buildings, offices of aid groups, and voter registration centers.

Fifty-two percent of the casualties from suicide and complex attacks were attributed to Islamic State, while 40 percent were attributed to the Taliban. "Unidentified Anti-Government Elements" were responsible for the remainder of the attacks, the UN said.

The death toll came despite last month’s unprecedented cease-fire in the war-torn country by government forces and the Taliban.

The Islamic State was not included in the cease-fire.

"The brief cease-fire demonstrated that the fighting can be stopped and that Afghan civilians no longer need to bear the brunt of the war," Tadamichi Yamamoto, the senior U.N. official in Afghanistan, said in a statement on July 15.

"We urge parties to seize all opportunities to find a peaceful settlement -- this is the best way that they can protect all civilians," Yamamoto added.

The UN also said that casualties from air strikes, which have intensified, went up by 52 percent, with 353 casualties including 149 dead and 204 wounded.

More than half of the civilian casualties were caused by the Afghan Air Force. International forces were blamed for 45 percent of the casualties from aerial attacks.

The UN urged involved forces "to uphold their commitments to take continuous steps to improve civilian protection in their aerial operations."

With reporting by Reuters, AFP and AP