KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — The number of children killed and wounded in Afghanistan's conflict increased in the first nine months of 2016, compared to the same period last year, the U.N. mission said in a new report released Wednesday.
The U.N.'s Assistance Mission in Afghanistan said it has documented a total of 2,461 casualties among children in 2016 — 639 deaths and 1,822 wounded. That's a 15 percent increase, compared to the January-September period in 2015.
The mission stressed that it remains deeply concerned over the continuing increase in child casualties, which have risen every year since 2013.
Between Jan. 1 and Sept. 30, UNAMA documented 8,397 conflict-related civilian casualties with 2,562 deaths and 5,835 wounded. That represents a 1 percent decrease, compared to the same period in 2015, said the mission.
Again, ground engagements remained the leading cause of civilian casualties, followed by suicide bombings and other complex attacks, including improvised explosive devices.
"Increased fighting in densely populated areas makes it imperative for parties to take immediate steps to ensure all feasible precautions are being taken to spare civilians from harm," the report quoted Tadamichi Yamamoto, the U.N. chief's special representative for Afghanistan.
The report also attributed the majority of the deaths to anti-government elements, saying the Taliban and other insurgents caused 61 percent of civilian casualties while pro-government forces caused 23 percent in the same nine months of 2016. Again, the report found that most of the dead and wounded civilians were caught in crossfire.
The U.N. report also documented numerous conflict-related incidents targeting health-care and educational facilities, as well as those providing humanitarian aid.
Since Jan. 1, UNAMA documented 75 incidents of attacks targeting schools and education facilities, including targeted killings, abductions and threats against teaching staff.
The report also noted the Aug. 24 attack on the American University in Kabul, when militants stormed the sprawling campus grounds located on the western outskirts of the Afghan capital, killing 13 civilians, mostly students, and wounding 48 others.
The UNAMA report on the Afghan civilian casualties, which is released quarterly, is based on on-site investigations wherever possible.