The figures released by the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) on October 10 show continuing high casualty rates being inflicted on the Afghan civilian population, especially by antigovernment elements.

Covering the period from January 1 to 30 September 2018, the report documented 8,050 civilian casualties (2,798 dead and 5,252 injured), reflecting the same extreme levels of harm to civilians in comparison to the same period in 2017.

The report indicates that the leading cause of civilians killed and injured from the armed conflict remained the combined use of suicide and non-suicide improvised explosive devices (IEDs) by antigovernment elements.

The report furthermore documents how the use of suicide IEDs increased in  frequency and in lethality, causing record high civilian casualty levels in the first three quarters of 2018.

The Mission found that ground engagements were the second leading cause of civilian casualties, followed by targeted and deliberate killings, aerial operations and explosive remnants of war.

Of grave concern, the report notes that anti-government elements increasingly directed attacks specifically against the civilian population, including ethnic and religious minorities.

In addition to detailing civilian casualties caused by search operations, elections-related violence and fighting in the city of Ghazni, UNAMA’s latest findings indicate that Nangarhar, Kabul, Helmand, Ghazni and Faryab were the provinces most impacted by the conflict.  For the first time, Nangarhar surpassed Kabul as the province with the most civilian casualties in the first nine months of 2018, more than double the number recorded during the same period in 2017.

In verifying civilian casualty data, UNAMA reportedly not only relies on a strict methodology requiring at least three different and independent source types, but also frequently conducts dozens of interviews, including with first-hand sources and victims, to determine the veracity of any claims.

The United Nations reiterates its call for anti-government elements to immediately cease the deliberate targeting of civilians, particularly with the use of illegal and indiscriminate IEDs, and maintains that all parties to the conflict must uphold their obligations to protect civilians from harm and must strictly adhere to their obligations under international humanitarian law, at all times.