A UN report released on Monday said that over 500 civilians were killed within the first three months of this year in Afghanistan. According to the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), 1,293 civilian casualties were recorded between January 1 and March 3. Of this 533 were killed in Afghanistan.

Taliban responsible for a majority of casualties

Anti-government forces were responsible for 55 percent or 710 civilian casualties. Of this 39 percent were attributed to the Taliban, 13 percent to the Islamic State and the remainder to other militant groups, Efe news reported.

Pro-government forces were responsible for 32 percent or 412 civilian casualties - 198 killed and 214 injured - mainly through airstrikes and indirect fire during ground engagements. UNAMA attributed 21 percent of civilian casualties to the actions of the Afghan national security forces, 8 percent to the international troops and the remainder to other pro-government armed groups.

Afghanistan
Representatonal Picture Reuters

Overall, the figures represent a 29 percent decrease in civilian casualties compared to the same period last year, during which UNAMA recorded a total 1,822 casualties, including 604 deaths and 1,218 injured, and the lowest figure for the first quarter of a year since 2012.

However, the UN body expressed concern about a resurgence of violence in March, when the Afghan government and the insurgents were expected to hold peace talks, following a reduction in violence towards the end of February that paved the way for a US-Taliban peace agreement.

Failed talks between government and insurgents

The peace deal, signed in Doha on February 29, included a prisoner swap agreement between the Taliban and the Afghan forces, which would serve as a precursor to the commencement of intra-Afghan talks to usher in peace in the country after nearly 20 years.

However, the process was affected by a disagreement between the insurgents and the government, leading to the Taliban negotiating team pulling out of the prisoner exchange talks earlier this month. Although both sides have unilaterally released some prisoners in an attempt to adhere to the Doha agreement, violence has continued unabated in the country, resulting in civilian casualties.

The UN body said the latest report reflected that the conflict in Afghanistan continues to be one of the deadliest in the world for civilians, especially at a time when the "potential impact of COVID-19 poses a threat to all individuals in Afghanistan".