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UNAMA concerned over civilian casualties in airstrikes

AT-KABUL: The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on Tuesday expressed concernsover the rising number of civilians killed in airstrikes this year in Afghanistan, with credible reports of the latest incident occurring late Saturday in Kapisa province.

The Mission in a statement said, “UNAMA 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.”

“The incident took place during operations conducted by Pro-Government Forces against Taliban in the area. It was not immediately clear whether the strike was carried out by international military forces or by the Afghan Air Force. UNAMA is in contact with both entities, as part of UNAMA’s ongoing independent verification process to establish facts around such incidents and to advocate with parties to improve mitigation measures in future operations to prevent civilian casualties,” it said.

“UNAMA reminds all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations to protect civilians from harm, and holds that all parties to the conflict must strictly adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law to take all feasible measures to protect civilians. UNAMA also calls upon parties responsible for operations resulting in civilian casualties to ensure independent, impartial, transparent and effective investigations into these incidents,” said UNAMA.

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.

The Mission repeats its earlier call for Government forces to uphold their commitment to regular review of targeting protocols and ensure mitigation measures and compensation for victims.

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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