Afghanistan fighting season could kill record number of civilians: aid agencies
By Kieran Guilbert
LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Fighting in Afghanistan this year could kill and injure a record number of civilians and force a growing number of people from their homes, aid agencies said on Thursday.
Taliban insurgents last week announced the start of their annual spring offensive, warning of increased attacks on foreign embassies and government officials, as well as military targets.
Last year was the worst for civilians since the United Nations began keeping records in 2009, with more than 10,000 killed or injured in the conflict in 2014.
"We predict an increase in civilian casualties this year," the U.N. deputy special representative for Afghanistan, Mark Bowden, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone.
"Hospitals have already noted twice the number of casualties coming in this year compared to the same period last year," he added.
The Taliban has been fighting the Afghan government and its foreign backers since it was ousted from power by U.S.-backed Afghan forces in 2001.
The International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) said it was concerned by the increased number of attacks in recent weeks and the heavy toll this had taken on the Afghan population.
The indiscriminate nature of a suicide bomb attack in Jalalabad earlier this month, which killed 33 people and injured more than 100, including many civilians, represents an "alarming trend", said ICRC director of operations Dominik Stillhart. Continued...