KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The number of children killed and wounded in Afghanistan's war jumped by 34 percent last year as the Taliban stepped up attacks across the country and continued to lay thousands of roadside bombs, the United Nations said Saturday.
Overall civilian casualties were up by 14 percent, reversing 2012's downward trend and making 2013 one of the deadliest years of the 12-year war for civilians, the U.N. Assistance Mission for Afghanistan said in a report.
The rising civilian toll underscores mounting levels of violence in Afghanistan. Taliban insurgents have ramped up attacks to try to gain ground and shake the Afghan government's confidence as international combat troops prepare to complete their withdrawal at the end of the year.
The U.N. report also noted an "alarming" new trend for 2013 — the increasing numbers of civilians being harmed in fighting between the Taliban and Afghan security forces.
It recorded a total of 962 battles in which civilians were harmed last year — an average rate of nearly 20 such battles every week — and said civilian casualties caused by such fighting rose by 43 percent over the previous year.
In terms of deaths and injuries, 2013 was also the worst year of the war for Afghan women and children, with most of the casualties caused by either stepping on or driving over roadside bombs or getting caught in fighting.
"It is the awful reality that most women and children were killed and injured in their daily lives — at home, on their way to school, working in the fields or traveling to a social event," said Georgette Gagnon, director of human rights for the U.N. mission, calling on all sides to work to protect civilians from harm.
UNAMA said 561 children were killed and 1,195 were wounded in 2013, a rise of 34 percent in the combined number of casualties. Also last year, 235 women died and 511 were wounded, a rise of 36 percent in combined casualties. The breakdown for deaths and injuries for children in 2012 was not available.
On Saturday, another child was killed when a roadside bomb detonated near a high school in the city of Jalalabad. Eight other people were wounded, said Ahmad Zia Abdulzai, spokesman for the governor of Nengarhar province of which Jalalabad is the capital.
The U.N. reported that a total of 2,959 civilians were killed in the war and 5,656 were wounded last year.
By comparison, there were 2,768 civilian deaths and 4,821 civilians wounded in 2012, and 3,133 deaths and 4,706 wounded in 2011.
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