Over 1,000 Civilians Killed in Attacks Since Taliban Takeover of Afghanistan, UN Report Says

The United Nations (UN) disclosed on Tuesday a notable tally of civilian fatalities and injuries in Afghanistan following the Taliban takeover, despite a substantial decrease in casualties compared to prior years of war and insurgency.

A recent report by the UN mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) states that from mid-August 2021 to the end of May, there have been 3,774 civilian casualties, including 1,095 individuals killed due to violence in the country. This figure contrasts with the 8,820 civilian casualties — 3,035 of which were fatalities — reported for 2020 alone in a preceding UN report.

The Taliban assumed control over Afghanistan in August 2021 during the concluding weeks of the US and NATO troops’ withdrawal from the country after two decades of conflict.

The UN report indicates that three-quarters of the attacks since the Taliban’s ascension were carried out using improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in populated areas, including schools, markets, and places of worship. Among the victims were 92 women and 287 children.

A UN press release following Tuesday’s report suggests an uptick in civilian harm resulting from IED attacks on places of worship — primarily those belonging to minority Shiite Muslims — compared to the three-year period before the Taliban takeover. The statement also mentions at least 95 fatalities in attacks on schools and other sites predominantly targeting the Shiite Hazara community.

The majority of these IED attacks were allegedly perpetrated by the Islamic State group’s regional affiliate, known as the Islamic State in Khorasan Province, a Sunni militant organization and a primary adversary of the Taliban, according to the UN statement.

Fiona Frazer, chief of UNAMA’s Human Rights Service, denounced these attacks on civilians, urging the Taliban to protect the Afghan people’s right to life. However, the UN report also mentions a significant number of fatalities from attacks that were either unclaimed or unattributable to any particular group.

The report raised concerns about the increased lethality of suicide attacks since the Taliban takeover and highlighted the challenges for victims in accessing essential services amidst a nationwide economic crisis and a substantial drop in donor funding.

“Victims of armed conflict and violence struggled to access essential medical, financial, and psychosocial support prior to the takeover, and this has become more challenging after the Taliban took power,” Frazer stated.

The UN report called for an immediate cessation of attacks and held the Taliban government accountable for the safety of Afghan citizens.

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The Taliban, however, claimed that their administration rescued the country from the brink of collapse. The Taliban-led foreign ministry asserted that security has improved since their takeover in August 2021, prioritizing the security of places of worship, including Shiite sites.

Despite assurances of a more moderate regime, the Taliban have reintroduced stringent rules since their ascension, banning girls’ education beyond the sixth grade and prohibiting Afghan women from most work and public life. These actions have sparked global condemnation against the already isolated Taliban, whose administration remains unrecognized by the UN and the international community.

By Melinda Davies
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