Afghan Civilian Casualties Declined, But UN Still Notes 'Appalling Suffering'

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More than 10,000 Afghan civilians were killed or wounded in violence a year ago, the United Nations said on Thursday, with militant bombings the main cause while air strikes by US and government forces inflicted a rising toll.

"We are concerned that we will see greater harm this year unless necessary steps are taken by all parties to prevent civilian casualties", cautioned Tadamichi.

The use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) - suicide and non-suicide - by armed groups led to the majority of the casualties a year ago, with ground engagements accounting for the second-highest number of victims.

M - The Taliban said on Wednesday, in a rare statement to the American people, they wanted to end Afghanistan's 17-year war through talks, while warning the message should not be seen as a sign of weakness and the fight against USA forces would go on, Reuters reported.

Pro-government forces caused a fifth of the civilian casualties according to the report, with 16 percent attributed to the Afghan national security forces, two percent to global military forces, one percent each to pro-government armed groups and undetermined pro-government forces.

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The casualties by pro-government forces were mainly caused by the increase in aerial bombings by Afghan and foreign forces, the UNAMA said.

FILE - Men mourn over relatives' bodies in a hospital near the site of an explosion in Herat, Afghanistan, June 6, 2017.

The UN says terrorist attacks in major cities by the Islamic State militants were behind the rise.

Meanwhile, spokesman for Afghan Defense Ministry, Dawlat Waziri, said that the security forces would do their best to protect civilians during military operations against militants in Afghanistan.

That compares to a total 11,434 casualties in 2016, when there were 3,510 deaths and 7,924 wounded.

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But she raised concerns about increasing numbers of casualties in aerial operations conducted by Afghan and worldwide forces.

The majority of the victims in 2017 were killed or wounded by anti-government insurgents, according to the report.

The U.N. Mission has been documenting civilian casualties in Afghanistan since 2009 and has so far confirmed a massive total of 28,428 in the bloody Afghan conflict.

The UNAMA chief again emphasized the need for "redoubling" collective efforts to seek a peaceful resolution to the Afghan conflict to bring an end to long running civilian sufferings.

A US intelligence assessment submitted to a congressional committee this week anticipates the overall situation in Afghanistan will "modestly deteriorate in 2018 in the face of persistent political instability, sustained attacks by the Taliban-led insurgency".

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