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Fewer civilians were killed in Afghanistan for the first quarter of this year, compared to last year, according to data released Sunday by the United Nations. But reports of injuries are on the rise.

The U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan documented 600 civilian deaths and 1,343 cases of injury between Jan. 1 and March 31 — a 13 percent decrease in deaths, but an 11 percent increase in injuries. Overall, the country saw a 2 percent increase in civilian casualties.

In the first three months of last year, the total number of casualties was 1,800, the U.N. said at the time.

The group noted “with particular concern” an increase in casualties caused by Afghan and coalition airstrikes: There were 27 in the first quarter of 2016 compared to 16 during the same period in 2015.

“Even if a conflict intensifies, it does not have to be matched by corresponding civilian suffering, provided parties take their international humanitarian law and human rights obligations seriously,” Nicholas Haysom, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Afghanistan and head of UNAMA, said in a statement. “Failure to respect humanitarian obligations will result in more suffering in a nation that has suffered enough.”

Like last year, ground engagements were shown to have caused the most total civilian casualties, followed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs), complex suicide attacks, as well as targeted killings.

Anti-government groups caused at least 60 percent of the casualties, down from 73 percent last year, while pro-government forces were responsible for at least 19 percent, a 5 percent increase.

“Both the Government and NATO/Resolute Support must ensure prompt investigations are conducted into all aerial operations should there be credible allegations of civilian casualties,” the statement said.

The U.N. mission in Afghanistan also called on all parties in Afghanistan’s conflict to ensure civilians are protected during their operations.

The U.N. report was released less than a week after the Taliban announced the start of their annual spring offensive, promising to target enemy strongholds with mass assaults, and assassinate “enemy commanders in urban centers.”

However, the group said insurgents had “been unequivocally instructed to implement their operations in such a manner that takes pains to protect civilians and civil infrastructure.”

Last year, 11,000 Afghan civilians were killed or injured as a result of the country’s unrest. Many analysts have predicted high numbers again this year, resulting from an expected tough combat season.

wellman.phillip@stripes.comTwitter: @PhillipWellman

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Phillip is a reporter and photographer for Stars and Stripes, based in Kaiserslautern, Germany. From 2016 to 2021, he covered the war in Afghanistan from Stripes’ Kabul bureau. He is a graduate of the London School of Economics.
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