Civilian deaths in Afghanistan war reach new high in 2014: UN

Afghan men gather around the bodies of victims of a suicide attack at a volleyball match in Yahya Khail district, Paktika province, Nov 24, 2014.  At least 3,188 Afghan civilians have been killed in the intensifying war with the Taleban in
Afghan men gather around the bodies of victims of a suicide attack at a volleyball match in Yahya Khail district, Paktika province, Nov 24, 2014.  At least 3,188 Afghan civilians have been killed in the intensifying war with the Taleban in 2014, making it the deadliest year on record for non-combatants, the United Nations said on Friday. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

KABUL (REUTERS) - At least 3,188 Afghan civilians have been killed in the intensifying war with the Taleban in 2014, making it the deadliest year on record for non-combatants, the United Nations said on Friday.

The numbers are a sharp reminder that the Afghan war is far from over, even as a US-led international force formally ends its combat mission at the end of the month, shifting to a supporting role for Afghan forces after 13 years.

"The situation for civilians in Afghanistan is becoming increasingly dire," said Georgette Gagnon, human rights director for the UN mission in Kabul.

As of Nov 30, the United Nations had recorded a total of 3,188 civilian deaths and 6,429 injuries.

That puts 2014 on track to be the first year on record that combined civilian casualties will surpass 10,000.

Civilian deaths over the year to the end of November were up 19 per cent over the same period last year and had already surpassed the previous high set in 2011, when 3,133 civilians were killed.

For the first time, ground battles between the Taleban and Afghan forces became the main cause of civilian deaths.

In previous years, planted bombs killed the most civilians.

"That is very worrying," said Gagnon, calling on all sides to do more to keep civilians from being caught in crossfire of mortars and other heavy weapons.

About three-quarters of civilian casualties were caused by Taleban insurgents, who are intensifying their fight to re-establish their hardline Islamist regime that was toppled in a US-backed military intervention for sheltering the Al-Qaeda architects of the Sept 11, 2001, attacks on US cities.

Since the UN began tracking civilian casualties in 2009, a total of 17,252 civilian deaths and 29,536 injuries have been recorded.

While US military officials have portrayed the war as in the process of being won by Afghan security forces, the national army and police have also suffered record losses this year, with more than 4,600 killed.

Since 2001, nearly 3,500 foreign soldiers from 29 countries have been killed in Afghanistan, including about 2,200 Americans.