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UN: ground combat now leading cause of conflict-related civilian casualties in Afghanistan

[JURIST] Ground combat engagements have surpassed improvised explosive devices (IEDs) as the most common cause of conflict-related civilian deaths and injuries in Afghanistan, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) [official website] reported [text, PDF] Wednesday. The report states that in the first six months of 2014, 1,901 civilian casualties, including 474 deaths, were attributed to ground engagements, accounting for 39 percent of all civilian deaths and injuries in that period. IEDs, previously the most common cause of civilian injuries, caused 1,463 civilian casualties in the same period. "The fight is increasingly taking place in communities, public places and near the homes of ordinary Afghans," said Director of Human Rights for UNAMA, Georgette Gagnon [official profile]. "More efforts are needed to protect civilians from the harms of conflict and to ensure accountability for those deliberately and indiscriminately killing them."The report laid out an action plan for Afghan Government Forces and International Military Forces as well as Anti-Government Elements to reduce civilian casualties.

Reported civilian casualties have been a source of ongoing tension between NATO and US forces and the Afghan population throughout their occupation of the country as part of the US-led War on Terror [JURIST backgrounder] and has drawn significant criticisms from human rights groups. UNAMA reported [JURIST report] in February that civilian casualties in total had increased by 14 percent in 2013. Earlier that month a Kuwaiti detainee at Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] filed suit for release [JURIST report] alleging that the US military withdrawal from Afghanistan signaled and end of the conflict, requiring that prisoners of war be released under international law. In October UNAMA condemned [JURIST report] an attack in south-eastern Afghanistan that claimed the lives of 19 non-combatants for directly targeting civilians. Provincial police in eastern Afghanistan reported [JURIST report] earlier that month that a NATO [official website] drone strike [JURIST feature] had killed 5 civilians.

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