Afghanistan’s protracted war killed a record number of civilians during the first six months of this year, according to a United Nations report released Monday, which blamed the majority of the deaths on bombings by insurgents.
U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Raad Hussein said the “horrifying” figure of 1,662 people killed between January and June of this year “can never fully convey the sheer human suffering of the people of Afghanistan.”
“Each one of these casualty figures reflects a broken family, unimaginable trauma and suffering and the brutal violation of people’s human rights,” he added.
The report confirms that a massive truck bomb in the center of Kabul on May 31, which killed at least 90 people, was the deadliest attack since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled the Taliban in 2001. It also noted that more women and children were among the dead this year.
Insurgent attacks killed 1,141 civilians, a 12% increase over the same period last year, according to the report, which said such attacks wounded an additional 2,348 people.
The report commends Afghanistan’s security forces, saying fewer civilians were caught in the crossfire compared with last year. It says 434 civilians were killed during military operations against insurgents.
Gen. Dawlat Waziri, a Defense Ministry spokesman, blamed the high toll on the insurgents’ use of human shields. “The army is being very careful during operations to prevent civilian deaths,” Waziri said.
Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid rejected the “biased” report, saying it did not take into account civilians killed by Afghan and coalition forces in areas controlled by the Taliban. He did not provide any figures and there was no way to verify his claims.
The insurgents have expanded their footprint in Afghanistan since U.S. and NATO forces formally concluded their combat mission at the end of 2014, and the Taliban now controls a number of districts…