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Parliament demands action as civilian deaths hit record high

By Farhad Naibkhel-KABUL: As civilian casualties hit record high in Afghanistan, Parliament on Wednesday called the spike in deaths a matter of ‘grave concern’, urging security agencies to ratchet up efforts to rein in the menace.

The concerns are voiced a day after the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan raised concerns over a drastic rise in civilian casualty toll from airstrikes this year.

Speaker of the Lower House Abdul Rauf Ibraimi blamed most of civilian deaths in military operations on Detachment 1 of the 1st Special Operations Group.

Ibrahimi referred to recent protests of families of martyrs in front of the Parliament to urge the government and its security apparatus to follow a good pattern to protect civilians.

Parliamentarians too turned the heat up on the 1st Detachment, saying the conduct of the unit with civilians during raids were lawless, which caused harm to people.

Lawmaker Obaidullah Barekzai lashed out at coalition airstrikes in volatile regions and contended that the U.S. forces bombed areas in Nangarhar, Laghman, Kapisa and Maidan Wardak provinces in last two weeks, killing and hurting tens of civilians including women, children.

Criticizing government silence regarding civilian casualties during airstrike, he asked relevant organs to stop civilian casualties.

Complaints came about casualties while recently the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) expresses its concern about the rising number of civilian casualties from airstrikes this year in Afghanistan, with credible reports of the latest incident occurring late Saturday in Kapisa province.

In a statement UNAMA said that it received multiple, credible allegations that on 22 September, aerial ordnance impacted the home of a teacher in the Budrab area of Tagab district, Kapisa province, killing nine civilians, including four children and three women, with several others injured. All the victims from the attack were from the same family, including grandparents and children aged between two and twelve. Five of the six other family members who were injured when their home was destroyed were women and young children.

Also UNAMA in a statement said today that its preliminary findings indicate that 12 civilians were killed Sunday in an airstrike in Maidan Wardak province during operations conducted by Pro-Government Forces in the area.

All of the victims were women and children from the same family whose house in the village of Mullah Hafez, Jaghato district, Maidan Wardak, was destroyed by aerial ordnance late on 23 September. Ten of those killed were children whose ages ranged from 6 to 15. Eight were girls.

In the first six months of the year, UNAMA documented 353 civilian casualties (149 deaths and 204 injured) from aerial attacks, a 52 per cent increase from the same period in 2017. It is of particular concern that women and children made up more than half of all aerial attack civilian casualties. The Mission attributed 52 per cent of all civilian casualties from aerial attacks to the Afghan Air Force, 45 per cent to international military forces, and the remaining three per cent to unidentified Pro-Government Forces. Around seven per cent of all civilian casualties in the Afghan conflict in the first half of the year were attributed to air operations.

Since the release of UNAMA’s 2018 mid-year Protection of Civilians Report, the Mission has continued to record increasing numbers of civilian casualties caused by airstrikes.

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