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UN urges cease-fire amid uptick in violence

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KABUL: Given the mounting number of incidents this month in which civilians have been killed and injured in the Afghan conflict, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan urges all parties to further reduce levels of violence, to take all feasible measures to protect civilians and work towards a ceasefire and a lasting political settlement.

The Mission echoes Monday’s call by the Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, for a global ceasefire so that the necessary focus and resources can be provided to combating the COVID-19 pandemic, a serious threat to all Afghans. A reduction in violence leading to a ceasefire would save lives, provide parties with a more conducive environment to commence intra-Afghan peace negotiations and would enable better preparations to combat the looming health crisis posed by COVID-19.

Despite some de-escalation in hostilities following the end of February announcement for a reduction in violence, UNAMA continues to record conflict-related civilian casualties with more than 100 killed and many more injured in the 1-25 March period.

A significant proportion of these civilian casualties were caused by Anti-Government Elements, such as in today’s Islamic State (Khorasan Province)-claimed attack at a Sikh-Hindu temple in Kabul that killed and injured dozens of civilians, as well as the group’s 6 March attack at a commemoration in the capital that killed 34 civilians and injured scores more. The Taliban has been responsible for a high number of civilian casualties, mainly from non-suicide improvised explosive devices and targeted killings. While UNAMA noted fewer civilian casualties attributed to Afghan national security forces, it is seriously concerned by incidents such as the 21 March Afghan Air Force strike in Kunduz that killed 11, mainly women and children. 

UNAMA emphasizes that the best way to protect civilians from conflict and the evolving health crisis is to stop the fighting altogether.

“The fury of the virus illustrates the folly of war,” said Secretary-General Antonio Guterres. “That is why today, I am calling for an immediate global ceasefire in all corners of the world… End the sickness of war and fight the disease that is ravaging our world. It starts by stopping the fighting everywhere. Now.” 

The United Nations remains ready to support an inclusive Afghan-led process that includes women, minorities and youth; upholds the human rights of all citizens; and leads to a sustainable peace in Afghanistan.

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