KABUL - UNAMA takes note of the recent decision by the Afghan Government to address reports of civilian casualties apparently caused by pro-Government forces in three separate incidents on 8 and 9 March in Maidan Wardak, Nangarhar and Paktika provinces, including the instruction of the President for a review of mechanisms and procedures used in military operations with a view to preventing civilian casualties.
Preliminary findings from the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) indicate that 24 civilians were killed and injured in three separate operations by pro-Government forces on 8 and 9 March in Maidan Wardak, Nangarhar and Paktika provinces. UNAMA will continue its independent fact-finding and share the findings with the concerned parties. Initial findings indicate that the majority of the victims were women and children. UNAMA notes with particular concern the high number of deaths in these three incidents, as compared to injuries.
The incidents in Maidan Wardak and Nangarhar provinces took place on the evening of 8 March when the National Directorate of Security Special Forces supported by international military forces carried out operations against Taliban in Sayed Abad and Hisarak districts, respectively. In both incidents, airstrikes by international military forces caused civilian deaths and injuries. Thirteen women and children were killed and injured in the Hisarak incident.
One day later, a pro-Government armed group, supported by international forces, carried out an evening search operation in Barmal district, Paktika province, against Taliban, that resulted in civilian casualties, including children.
In its 2018 Annual Protection of Civilians Report, released in February 2019, UNAMA reported a sharp increase in civilian casualties from aerial and search operations in 2018 compared to 2017. The report noted that aerial operations by international military forces, as well as search operations conducted by Afghan national security forces and pro-Government armed groups, drove a 24 per cent overall increase in civilian casualties by pro-Government forces.
UNAMA reminds all parties to the conflict to uphold their obligations under international humanitarian law to protect civilians from harm, including their obligation to take all feasible precautions to avoid death or injury to civilians.